A Cautionary Tale of Seafood Gnocchi with Clams and Mussels

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.
1 Here are the rascals … sold to me upon a retailer’s recommendation who should have known better …2 Here is the bunch of rocket.3 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:

5 Tomatoes and some chilli in a saucpan …6 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.7As 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.

9 I then added the mussels and clams on the half shell or free of all shell  …10 This is what got thrown away …11 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.12 I poured this delicious sea-tasting liquid through a fine sieve …13 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.14 I poured some of the liquor into the sauce …15 I added the cooked gnocchi.  I turned the heat up so that the gnocchi could guzzle up some of the sauce.16 I then placed the gnocchi in a bowl and, after, putting some rocket leaves on the top, I added a ladelful of the sauce.17 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 ….

About myhomefoodthatsamore

Community celebration via food, wine and all beautiful things.
This entry was posted in Basic Techniques, Fish and seafood, Herbs and plants, italian home food, Primi (first courses - usually a pasta or risotto), Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to A Cautionary Tale of Seafood Gnocchi with Clams and Mussels

  1. For a so-so dish, it sounds and looks pretty good 🙂

  2. Francesca says:

    Great recipe, Jo, and lovely presentation.

  3. I’m sure your part of the recipe was even better than you describe. I’ve never had seafood cooked this way before so don’t really know how it might taste. However, great idea re tall milk jug, olive oil and garlic. Shall try that one day.

  4. Love your invention for the garlic – seems every time I cook garlic lately it burns and spoils the oil and I have to start again … 🙂

  5. I’ve never had this combination but it looks delicious so I’ll have to try it. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Gnocchi should be made fresh from scratch!

    • josephine says:

      Of course they ‘should’ ! but it’s also true that, in this country at least, you can buy some very good quality freshly made (usually on a Thursday) gnocchi. Stupid me for getting the wrong kind …

      • The bag in the photo didn’t look like something freshly made but rather like something from a factory. Here I’ve never seen freshly made gnocchi for sale.

  6. PS I use a similar but even simpler trick for the garlic: I heat the oil with the garlic in the frying pan that will hold the sauce. As soon as the oil is hot, I take the pan off the heat and tilt it such that the garlic is submerged. I discard tge garlic when it is golden. A wooden cutting board is excellent for tilting the pan without having to hold it. It’s off the heat so can’t burn. Less washing up. I like your cute pentolino though 🙂

    • josephine says:

      I do the ’tilting’ when we’re talking a v. small amount of oil, and when I am using a pan that is indeed ’tiltable’ (i.e. not the le creuset kind, too heavy!). The pentolino is when I dealing with a larger amount of oil …

      • Not surprised to find we use the same trick 🙂
        I don’t have Le Creuset (don’t like them on induction) and don’t tend to use huge quantities of oil, but I’ll remember this for future use 🙂

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