Gnocchi and How to Not Make Cheese Sauce

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Everybody knows I love pasta. I enjoy tortellini, spaghetti, fettuccini, lasagna, pierogi, macaroni… the list goes on and on.

And somewhere on that list is gnocchi.

(Say it: knee-oh-key. Gnocchi. Good.)

It’s a traditional Italian dish, and any true Italian will tell you that packaged gnocchi doesn’t even come close to being as good as the homemade stuff. But since I have a mostly German heritage and am just dipping my toes into the world of homemade pasta/bread making, I’m a lowly store-brand gnocchi eater. Sorry. (I think it’s still pretty dang good, though.)

Anyways, for those who don’t know, gnocchi is a dumpling made mostly of flour and potato… a.k.a., the definition of comfort food. I saw another blogger refer to gnocchi as “potato pillows”. They’re soft and delicious. Ugh. Try it. These tasty little dumplings are traditionally served in soups or with a creamy sauce. Lucky for poser-Italian me, the gnocchi box (BTW, you just boil them and you’re done) had a cheese sauce recipe on the back! How convenient!

I threw the box away in a fit of rage (you’ll understand later), so I can’t tell you exactly how they suggested to do it, but it involved butter, cream, and (I think) gruyere cheese. Gruyere cheese is “fancy” and entirely unavailable in small town southern Iowa. The small carton of cream I had in the back of the fridge was creating strange, not-so-creamy smells. Tossed it. I was left with butter, milk, and a choice of parmesan, mozzarella, or Mexi-blend cheeses.

Spoiler alert: I severely overestimated my cooking improv skills… this was a disaster.

I melted a couple tablespoons of butter in a small pot, then decided to throw in some shredded mozzarella cheese. As that was melting, I grated some parmesan on top. I turned up the burner to medium-high heat and started stirring the mixture vigorously. Let me paint a picture for you of what was happening at this point: strings of hot cheese, slowly clumping together in a sea of bright yellow, liquefied butter. As my spoon went down, the clumpy/stringy cheese went up, bearing its bright white face to the kitchen ceiling and then disappearing beneath the yellow waves as my spoon came back up. It was like trying to spot a sea creature. The mysterious cheese clumps were starting to creep me out.

For some reason, I thought that maybe adding some milk would help. LOL.

So then, instead of just creepy cheese clumps in butter, I had creepy cheese clumps in milky butter. It just kept getting weirder. In another moment of insanity, I thought that maybe I could just pile the cheese on top of the gnocchi, like a cheeseball garnish, and then pour the sauce on around it. I tried a piece of cheese. It was disgusting. It was chewy and hard. I spat it out into the trashcan, and then Cass asked me what I was trying to make. I explained it to him. He said, “Oh.” At that moment, my Chef Pride shattered and I had had enough with the stupid cheese sauce. I fished the rest of the cheese curds out of my sauce, trashed them (much to Max’s dismay; he loves cheese), and we had gnocchi with peas coated in hot butter and milk for dinner.

Don’t ever ask me how to make a cheese sauce, because I won’t be able to tell you.

It was a traumatic experience, but the end results were good enough.

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Cass put some garlic salt on his, and I topped mine with some salt, pepper, and fresh parm. It was tasty. Pasta makes everything better.

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