This recipe was the first time in my life I had seen the suggestion to pan-cook the gnocchi in oil and butter instead of boiling them in water, and I was intrigued. Since I was using store-bought gnocchi (although it was made in Italy — does that make it better?), I decided to go ahead and boil the gnocchi as directed and then sauté it (I was supported in this decision by a quick Google search on sautéed gnocchi). The results were not as phenomenal as would be achieved by Waxman’s completely homemade and pan-cooked pillows of crispness and tenderness, but still more exciting than simply boiled gnocchi. Overall the dish was still one of the best gnocchi dishes I have ever had. It is simple — peas, carrots, basil, and pepper are all that is added to the gnocchi — but it is outstanding.
Italian, My Way also includes a useful section on Basics, with short recipes for such necessities as pesto, roasted tomato sauce, and mascarpone. Then follows a dictionary of tools, ingredients, and cooking methods, as well as a section on where to buy some of the harder-to-find ingredients (with a few that can be found nationwide, but most for the residents of New York).
With Italian, My Way, Jonathan Waxman has created the kind of cookbook that makes you want to try harder in the kitchen, and by extension care more about your food. It would be hyperbolic to say that this cookbook can make the world a better place. But then again, if we all learned to love a breast of chicken or peas fresh from the pod as much as Waxman encourages us to, couldn’t we also learn to look at other things with that much affection? And could learning to try harder in the kitchen not extend to a new-found dedication to greater intentionality in all of life?