Gnocchi presented in either a mussel- or clam sauce topped off with rocket leaves were very popular around Rome during the early nineties. Basically, it was the rocket leaves that were so popular, there was a tendency to strew them all over the place!, and it’s a wonder we didn’t end up eating rocket leaf ice-cream such was the culinary disposition towards these bitter salad leaves. And I don’t think Mae West had rocket/arugula in mind when she famously said, “Too much of a good thing can be truly wonderful”. Regardless, this gnocchi dish is actually very good and I hadn’t had it in literally years. The only big one mistake I made was to buy gnocchi that were really not at all good, sigh. I can’t describe what exactly was ‘wrong’ with them, they lacked ‘character’ is all I can say … so, if you want to try this recipe, do make sure your gnocchi are up to the mark, it makes all the difference.
Here are the rascals … sold to me upon a retailer’s recommendation who should have known better … Here is the bunch of rocket. I steamed the mussels and clams by placing a lid over the pan …
And this is what they looked like minutes later.
In the meantime, I began preparing the sauce:
Tomatoes and some chilli in a saucpan … Cooking up the olive oil and garlic in a small milk pan. I’ve written about this ‘technique’ in another post, I’m sure. Instead of sautéing the garlic in olive oil in a flat pan, it is better to cook it in an upright, smaller pan for two practical reasons: a) you will need less oil and b) all of the garlic will cook evenly and you will also (c) avoid the oil from overcooking altogether. I am very proud of this invention of mine even though I only resort to it when dealing with recipes involving clams and mussels.As you can see, I rather overcooked the garlic (on the left) but that’s my fault and not that of the milk-pan technique. Whatever. I poured the garlic-scented olive oil through a sieve into the pan with the tomatoes and discarded the garlic.
I then added the mussels and clams on the half shell or free of all shell … This is what got thrown away … This is the liquid/liquor that the clams and mussels released … and there is a bit of sand and grit on the bottom of the pan, if you look closely. I poured this delicious sea-tasting liquid through a fine sieve … I put the gnocchi on to boil … they really take no time at all to cook. Once they bob up to the surface, give them about a minute and they’re ready. I poured some of the liquor into the sauce … I added the cooked gnocchi. I turned the heat up so that the gnocchi could guzzle up some of the sauce. I then placed the gnocchi in a bowl and, after, putting some rocket leaves on the top, I added a ladelful of the sauce. It tasted quite nice, as I said, except that the gnocchi were ‘fake’ … I saved the situation by adding some grated pecorino cheese over each individual dish.
And here ends my cautionary tale … if you’re going to make gnocchi, then for goodness sakes make sure they are the good kind. What could have been a truly delicious dish was reduced to being so-so, nothing to write home about, barely more than plain edible.
Ah the trials and tribulations of the home cook …. sigh ….