I’ve wanted to make my own pasta for a while, but fear of the unknown always stopped me. I admired people who created long, flour-covered strands of linguine, or plump, handmade raviolis, but I asked myself: Could I really accomplish the same feat? I was satisfied with boxed pasta, and (somewhat ashamedly) the butternut squash raviolis from the grocery store freezer.
The last time I was home, I started digging through old food magazines that I had stockpiled in my bedroom. I came across a local magazine that ran a four-page spread on making your own pasta. I found a recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi, and I immediately ripped it out. It’s fate, I said to myself. I’m going to make my own gnocchi.
The recipe seemed relatively straightforward: boil sweet potatoes, mash them, let them cool and then mix with flour. Roll out the dough, cut it into squares, and roll the squares into dumplings.
I started to get hungry, so I decided to take the mashed sweet potatoes out of the fridge early and mix them with the flour. The recipe called for 1 cup of flour, but I found myself adding one…then two…then three. That’s when I realized: it was going to be a long night.
I tried to save the dough by hand-kneading it, but it was too slimy and goopy to touch. Getting it back into the mixing bowl was a challenge, and little bits stuck to my hands and arms. I kept adding flour, hoping the dough would stick together…but it was a bit unnerving watching half my flour supply disappear in under a minute. It’s ironic, I thought. I had just read Cooking Light’s article on “Most Common Cooking Mistakes,” which listed everything from overcooking chocolate to neglecting toasting nuts. Unfortunately, “impatience” wasn’t on the list.
Finally, the dough started to stick together. I kneaded it a few times, cut it into little squares, and rolled the pieces on the back of a fork. I dropped the gnocchi into boiling water, and waited for them to rise to the top. I was worried they might fall apart in the water, but luckily, they stayed together. In less than five minutes, I had plump, fluffy sweet potato gnocchi.
By the end of this experience, I was covered in flour, slightly frazzled, and half-starving. I looked at the clock, and I couldn’t believe three hours had gone by. But I learned a few important lessons: Never skimp on steps. If potatoes are supposed to cool down, let them! Sometimes, a recipe will push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s well worth the challenge. And in cooking, as in life, most things are salvageable. With a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, the gnocchi was a delicious and satisfying meal.
I might stick to boxed pasta for a while, but I’m glad I took a risk. And who knows? Maybe I’ll try raviolis next…