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Posted on Aug 15, 2007 in Bento, Dumplings or Buns, For Kids, Lactose Free, Parent Hacks, Pasta or Noodles, Potatoes, Recipe, Vegetarian | 21 comments

Homemade gnocchi box lunches

Homemade gnocchi box lunches

Bug and I made homemade gnocchi for dinner last night, which he really enjoyed as it was like playing with play dough (modeling clay). Involving your kids in meal prep can be a fun way to get them interested in their food, as well as being rewarding family time if you don’t stress about the meal being fast or perfect. Check out the James Beard Award-winning website Spatulatta.com for videos of kids teaching kids to cook; there’s a lot of quality material there, including the Spatulatta Cookbook .

Gnocci lunch for preschooler

Contents of preschooler lunch: Homemade gnocchi with pesto sauce, Bartlett pears, Concord grapes, pluot (plum apricot hybrid), and kiwi. The grapes turned out to be unpopular with Bug because of their seeds and thicker skin. I love their complex, almost wine-like flavor, though, so Bug fed them to me.

Morning prep time: 7 minutes, using leftover sauced gnocchi. In the morning I just microwaved the sauced gnocchi to restore texture, and cut up fruit. (I boiled uncooked gnocchi for my meal to see how the two differed.)

Packing: Everything is cut into bite-sized pieces for easy child eating. I dipped the cut pears in lemon juice mixed with strawberry banana juice to prevent the fruit from browning without the sour taste of straight lemon. A little pink Shokupanman pick was supposed to help with the pears, but they were so soft that a fork was a better utensil (they fell apart with the little pick). Packed in a cheap three-tier 495ml box from Daiso, closed with the elastic bento band shown here.

Cooking: We made the gnocchi with potatoes and flour — that’s it. Marcella Hazan, the Soup Nazi of Italian cookbook writers, gives good guidance on making gnocchi in her definitive cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Boil 1.5 lbs of boiling potatoes (I used Yukon Golds) with skins on, put them through a potato ricer or mouli while still warm, and work in about 1.5 cups of all-purpose flour until it gets to a soft Play Dough consistency. Flour the work surface and roll into long ropes of one inch in diameter, then cut ropes into 3/4-inch segments. Use the concave tines of a dinner fork to shape the gnocchi (or just poke them with your finger to make an indent that’ll catch the sauce). Cook the gnocchi in small batches in salted boiling water — pull them out 10 seconds after they float to the surface. Gently sauce and eat. Check out the gnocchi recipes and tutorials by Simply Recipes and Cook (Almost) Anything Once.

Gnocci lunch

My lunch: I set aside some shaped but uncooked gnocchi last night to test the difference between leftover cooked/sauced gnocchi and freshly cooked gnocchi in our box lunches. Result: the gnocchi I boiled this morning had a nicer texture but lost a little of their defined shape through the overnight rest in the refrigerator (next time will try freezing them). The refrigerated cooked/sauced gnocchi was fine but not optimal, and needed to be tossed with a little fresh pesto sauce in the morning before packing.

Morning prep time: Because I boiled my gnocchi fresh this morning in a small pot, it took about 15 minutes to make this lunch.

Packing: Packed in two 350ml tiers of a Lock & Lock lunch set, with the drink container holding banana-strawberry juice cut with water.

(Edit: After making this, I discovered that Donna Hay’s blog was having a gnocchi roundup, so I submitted it for  HHDD#14, hosted this time by Cafe Lynnylu. You can see the full gnocchi roundup here, posted Aug. 25, 2007.)

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  1. Hey Biggie, wow, you make gnocchi sound so simple to make! I assure you that I have never, ever, before htis moment even considered making gnocchi (and I read about 40-50 food blogs at least 10 of which have, since I started reading them, talked about gnocchi and how easy it is to make). I don’t know, you just make it sound so… doable. I really appreciate that! (I generally don’t make anything involving dough.) (I know… weird aversion…)
    Now my question is: so you’re going to try freezing the gnocchi next time for shape purposes… but would you definitely not go the pre-cooked and pre-sauced route next time (the way you did Bug’s)? Just wondering. Or you know, next time you wind up posting/making gnocchi, let us know which method you decide is optimal? Thanks :)

  2. @Yvo, just curious, what is it with gnocchi that you find intimidating?

    I make them sort of reluctantly but I make their german “relative” knödel (kloss in bavaria) often. Kloss are bigger though, and come with a filling, Gnocchi, boiled mashed potatoes mixed with flour and then boiled are a recurring theme in most cultures. If you find gnocchi somewhat intimidating, perhaps you could find something else that helps you?!
    Otherwise I’d dig up a basic Italian cookbook, pref. with a pictorial to follow, and gnocchi away :).

  3. Hi Biggie, I’m an Italian “fan” of your website and I can give you an Italian advice. If you have to cook the gnocchi you prepared the day before, it’s better to freeze them at first on a tray for some minutes, then you can put them in a bag in the freezer. so they will save their shape when they boil.
    bye!

  4. Hi Biggie! I have never heard of gnocchi before, it sounds yummy! I think I’ll try it on a weekend, thanks for the great link and for such a tasty looking photo!

  5. @4 from valentina: Thanks for the gnocchi freezing info — it’s EXACTLY what I’ll do next time I make a batch. I think next time I’ll try sweet potato gnocchi; we had some transcendent sweet potato gnocchi with sage & brown butter a few years ago at a wonderful little Venetian restaurant in San Francisco’s North Beach (Da Flora). It’s harder to get out to nice restaurants with a preschooler, but I can always work on duplicating the food at home…

  6. Thanks Biggie!!!

    @Jessica – it’s not gnocchi in particular that intimidates me. I wouldn’t even say intimidates; I generally can’t be bothered to make anything that involves dough because it usually is an involved process, including getting really messy and having a lot of space at my disposal. Living in a city (New York City/Manhattan) apartment means not that much room to play around with stuff, plus, though Biggie’s do look delicious, the few times I’ve had gnocchi, I wasn’t impressed whatsoever, so specifically on that end, I wasn’t too interested. ;) As for dough, well, nearly anything that comes from dough is also something I’m perfectly happy to let other people make for me (baked goods, of which I’m not the hugest fan, pasta I adore but the dried/boxed kind suits me fine… fluffy bread I also adore but will let the pros handle for me, though I’m keen on trying that loaf of bread everyone raves about that was in the NYT a yearish ago..)

    Sorry, I’m writing a novel here. ;)

  7. @5 from Pikko: Thanks! It’s definitely a weekend dish, but lovely and light with a simple sauce like tomato/butter/onion, sage and brown butter, or pesto.

  8. @6 from mom2twins: Thanks for reading, mom! ;-) You know, I hadn’t actually worried about it as I thought that my containers were mostly Japanese and Korean, but I’ll go have a look and do some more research. A lead test sounds like a good idea, to be safe — thanks for the tickler!

  9. @1 from CarolinaDiva: First, thanks for reading! Hey, nothing wrong with PBJ & fruit lunches — I just get bored easily with food repeats.

    For microwaving, I microwave some things to defrost or restore the texture of something like leftover pasta. You might get something out of my post on hot vs. cold packed lunches here: http://lunchinabox.net/2007/08/06/box-lunches-hot-or-cold/

    For a starter bento kit, I’d say it depends on where you are, what sort of foods you think you’ll pack, your personal style, your age/dietary goals, and how much you want to spend. To figure out the size box you want, I’d say check out my guide to choosing the right size bento box.

    As for containers, My Shop page has some sources — JList has bento boxes, as does eBay and other online stores (check out the LJ Bentolunch community’s geographic and online shopping guides linked on my Shop page). My Amazon store has links to good everyday lunch containers often available in big chains like Target or Walmart. Have a look around and let me know if I can give you any more guidance.

  10. preparing dinner with kids sounds really fun! my kids love helping me cook, and playing with playdough — hey, cooking gnocchi would be perfect! I will probably try making pumpkin gnocchi ; p

  11. Dear Biggie-san:

    A friend of mine introduced me to your site a month or two ago – since then, I think I’ve been through all of your posts at least twice. It’s really inspired me to start packing bentos (or just making certain foods in general!), so first I must thank you for that.

    I had a question though… when you pre-pack food into the bento (so it’s faster in the morning), do you put the bento box in the fridge or just close it and leave it outside? I understand this depends on the food, but I was just curious. I pre-packed a bento once and left it in the fridge and just took it the next day… condensation was an issue, though the food I packed was fine. Any tips would be great!

    Thank you for your time!

    -DG

  12. @13 from yumimb: I’m sure your children will have a great time rolling, cutting and shaping/poking the gnocchi — put ‘em to work! ;-)

  13. @14 from DGchans: Hey, yoroshiku! When I pre-pack food in a bento at night, I always refrigerate it for optimum food safety (overnight + all morning is too long to safely hold a lunch at room temperature). The trick to avoiding condensation is to thoroughly drain and cool the food you pack beforehand — you can even continue to cool the lunch after packing with the lid off for a while until it’s totally cool, then cover it and pop it in the fridge. Eat deliciously, but safely!

  14. Hi, Biggie!
    I’m a new reader…and I’m in love with your site! Your photos are simply beautiful and mouth-watering, and your recipes and tips are so helpful. I don’t have kids, I work at home, and my husband gets lunch at work, but I still find all your posts so interesting. Thanks for such a great site!

  15. I just made homemade gnocchi with pesto too! :) My first time, heehee :) Really appreciated your comments on the differences between the freshly cooked and from the fridge. And your lunch boxes are adorable!

  16. @17 from JD: Thanks for the kind comments, JD! I’m glad you’re getting something from the site even though you don’t have an immediate need for the tips. Thank you for reading!

  17. @18 from joey: Was this the first time you made them, or have you made them before? Hope they worked out well for you and that you had fun making them!

  18. Concord grapes are definitely an acquired taste – I found I like popping them out of their skins and deseeding them, so I have a little pile of tart green mini-jellyfish to eat instead. ;)

    Whaddayamean, I’m not supposed to play with my food?

  19. @21 from Corgi: I really like the taste that sucking on the skins give (not chewing), so there’s that. I definitely see the appeal of a pile of no-seed, no-peel Concord grapes, though! Mmm…

  20. I wish my mother had made me lunch boxes like yours. They look wonderful. Thanks for joining HHDD.

  21. @23 from barbara: Thank you, barbara, you’re an inspiration!