Got Garganelli?


fresh-made garganelli

I have a lot of favorite pasta shapes…fusilli lunghi, orecchiette, linguine, bucatini…but these days I’m in love with garganelli.

Lots of Italians believe some shapes only go with some sauces and some shapes would never go with other sauces. i.e. orecchiette is great with broccoli rabe and sausage; linguine with a clam sauce; bucatini with the Sicilian “pasta con le sarde” (sardines) sauce.

Garganelli might typically marry with cream and prosciutto, or hang out with a duck ragu, but coat it with a fresh tomato sauce and it’s still says perfect. Originally from the Emilia-Romagna region (where I’m taking my cooking class students this year), it’s a hand-shaped pasta made from an egg pasta dough.

It’s easy to make. But you’ll need a gnocchi board. And a pencil, or not-too-thick dowel. Some gnocchi boards come with a dowel for making this pasta.


gnocchi boards (and one with a dowel for garganelli)

We made it my class this week and newbies became experts super-quick.


my class making garganelli

Full recipe below. I pair it with my other new favorite: artichoke & pancetta sauce. But here are some tips for making the garganelli shape.

After you roll out your dough to pretty thin (about a 4 on the pasta machine rollers), cut the dough into 1-1.5-inch squares. Lay the square, turned to look like a diamond, at one end of the gnocchi board.


rolling the dough

Lay the pencil or dowel at the tip nearest you and roll up the dough along the pencil, pressing it against the groves of the gnocchi board.

If it sticks to the board, add a little flour to the board and/or the dough piece. But not too much — you want the dough ends to stick together.

They’re super-fun to make, and I LOVE the taste. Yes, I do think that different pasta shapes, despite the sauce they’re in, taste differently. Just chewing through a forkful of spaghetti strands makes a different eating experience than a few penne in your mouth.

I hope you’ll try it — and if you do — let me know how it goes!


garganelli fresh-made


garganelli w artichoke-pancetta sauce

Fresh Garganelli Pasta w Roman Artichoke & Pancetta Sauce

For the Pasta: 

2 cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

3 eggs, lightly beaten

For the Sauce:

12 ounces, frozen artichoke hearts, thawed

olive oil for sautéing, plus more for drizzling

1 large shallot, peeled and diced

4 ounces pancetta, diced

1/4 cup heavy cream

salt & pepper to taste

Make the Pasta:

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl. Create a “well” in the middle of the flour and add the eggs. Using a fork slowly mix the flour into the egg, until the dough comes together and all the flour is mixed in. Gather the dough and knead it on a lightly floured surface. If it’s too sticky add a little flour. Knead for about 5 minutes until smooth. Shape into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest at room temp for 30 minutes.

Cut the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time and keep the other pieces covered in plastic wrap. Flatten the dough into a rough rectangle, and roll through the pasta machine, changing the numbers from thick to thinner (lower to higher) one at a time until you reach the second to last setting.

Lay the sheet on a table. Using a pizza cutter or knife, cut into 1 inch by 1 inch squares (doesn’t have to be perfect!) Turn square so that you’re looking at a diamond shape. Using a pencil (or other small wooden rod) gently fold the bottom point of the diamond around the pencil. Then lay pencil and dough on a gnocchi board. Roll up the rest of the dough onto the pencil while pressing it on the gnocchi board until you form a tube. Gently slide the tube off the pencil and repeat with the rest of the dough. Place finished garganelli on a floured sheet pan.

Make the Sauce:  Slice the artichokes hearts into 4 or 5 slices per heart. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the shallot and pancetta. Cook until shallot is softened and pancetta is cooked through. Add the sliced artichoke hearts. Add a little more olive oil if too dry. Cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes on medium heat. Season with salt & pepper. Add cream and toss to coat.

When pasta is done, reserve a half cup of pasta water, then drain pasta and add pasta to skillet with artichoke sauce. Stir to coat pasta and cook for 2-3 minutes until flavors combine. Add a little pasta water if it needs moistening. Serve hot. Add some grated cheese to individual servings.

Butternut Squash Gnocchi w Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Making gnocchi in class

Making butternut squash gnocchi in class

Better hurry up. Spring is sneaking up on us and soon the very sight of a butternut squash will look passé, an anachronism, winter in the middle of spring: “what are YOU doing here?”

But the supermarket still has ’em and I’m still buying them and still relishing in butternut squash gnocchi. We just made some in class last week. Once we sat down to eat…after all the cooking and prepping and bustle in the kitchen, a newly poured glass of wine dosido-ing with the dinner plate, ready to play…I stuck my fork into one of those pillowy gnocchi and took a bite. Ah, yes. Wasn’t that little dance in the kitchen so worth it? Ah, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

making butternut squash gnocchi in class

making butternut squash gnocchi in class

They are not hard to make. Just one little tricky part. You never know how moist your cooked butternut squash will be. So the flour amounts in the recipe can change. This should be no problem. Just try to add as little flour as you need, but as much to get a nice soft dough, not too sticky, but a little tacky is okay.

I trim my squash of top stem and a sliver from the bottom. Cut the squash in half at the point where it just begins to widen. Be careful cutting this odd-shaped beauty. It’s pretty dense with no straight sides. Cut each half in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds from the bottom quarters. Lay the pieces cut side down on a sheet pan with about a 1/2 inch of water. Roast until tender, let cool, then scrape out your squash.

butternut squash gnocchi

butternut squash gnocchi

We paired the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, sage, and butter. If you try it,  let me know how it goes!

sun-dried tomato sauce

sun-dried tomato sauce

Fresh Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Sage-Sun-Dried Tomato Butter Sauce

For the Gnocchi:

2 cups cooked butternut squash, mashed smooth

½ cup ricotta

¼ cup grated parmigiano cheese

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon hot pepper

salt & pepper to taste

2 cups flour

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced

2-3 sage sprigs, leaves minced, stems discarded

1/4 cup white wine or vermouth

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Make the Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, sage and sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth. Let sizzle and almost evaporate. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes or more.

Make the gnocchi: In a large bowl, mix together the squash, ricotta, grated cheese, nutmeg, hot pepper and salt & pepper. Add 1 cup of flour and gentle mix in with a large spoon making sure the mixture is smooth and any small chucks of squash are mashed.  Add more flour until you have a dough consistency. Knead until combined. It may be a little sticky – that’s okay.

Break off a small handful of dough and roll into a log about a ½-inch thick. (Coat with more flour if too sticky to handle.) Cut log into ¼-inch pieces. Press each piece lightly against a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork. Toss with flour on a flour-dusted baking sheet. Try not to let them touch to keep them from sticking to each other. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Finish dish: Bring a pasta pot full of water to a boil. Season with salt.  Drop in gnocchi.  Cook until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, then let cook for about one minute more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Gently coat with sauce.

making butternut squash gnocchi

making butternut squash gnocchi

What Makes This Water So Crazy?

The Aisle of Capri

The Aisle of Capri

Acqua Pazza. Translation: Crazy Water.  It’s the name of an Italian fish dish. As in Pesce all’Acqua Pazza. I’d heard of it for years, read recipes, but never cooked or ate it until my traveling group to the Amalfi Coast cooked it up at a local class in Ravello.

Cooking Class in Ravello at Hotel Villa Maria

Cooking Class in Ravello at Hotel Villa Maria

We used branzino in our cooking class at Hotel Villa Maria in Ravello. Fresh as fresh could be. Filleting the whole fish just before slipping it into the flavorful crazy water.

Our chef explaining the fish filleting process

Our chef explaining the fine points of fish filleting to me


I was intrigued through the cooking process and then majorly hooked from the first bite.

Crazy Water in Ravello

Crazy Water in Ravello

Fish in Crazy Water in Ravello

Fish in Crazy Water in Ravello

I had always thought the dish originated in the Veneto because Marcella Hazan seems to be the first Italian cook/chef to introduce it to the US (she lived in Venezia). But it’s really from Campania, and apparently became a very popular dish on the aisle of Capri in the 1960’s.

Story goes that fishermen used sea water with tomatoes and garlic to make a broth for cooking fish. Sounds crazy, no? Maybe cooking with sea water is. But the recipe that evolved from the idea is nicely seasoned fresh water.

At home I use cod or tilapia. But I think any firm fish would work perfectly.

Here’s how to make it for 4-6 medium-sized fish fillets:

In a deep large sauté pan add:

3-4 ripe tomatoes that have been cut into bite-sized chunks

3-4 garlic cloves, peeled & minced or rough-chopped

healthy handful of flat Italian parsley, rough-chopped

healthy pinch of hot pepper, i.e. red pepper flakes or aleppo

3-4 cups water

1/4 cup olive oil or more

Season mixture with salt & pepper. Bring to a boil, then let simmer, partially covered for about an hour. Let the water reduce a bit in the process. I add some lemon juice and lemon zest (from one small-medium lemon), but that’s not in the traditional recipe. I just like lemon!

When the crazy water has simmered and reduced a bit, the ingredients will blend into a beautiful taste and color. Season your fish fillets with salt and pepper, slip them into the broth, cover the pan and let them simmer gently till cooked through — about 10-15 minutes. Done!

Serve in medium (pasta) bowls: a fillet, a couple of ladles of chunky broth, and a slice or two of toasted/or warm/or crunchy bread (I use baguette).

So easy. So healthful. So tasty. And not crazy at all.

Fish in Crazy Water at Home (Tilapia)

Fish in Crazy Water at Home (Tilapia)