A foot and a half of snow on the ground (where there was none yesterday) in the middle of April seems like as good an excuse as any to hunker down and do some serious cooking. I’ve been meaning to re-tackle this recipe for a while; an Italian co-worker of mine gave this to me years ago, but the recipe was something like “Take some mashed potatoes, add an egg and enough flour to make a dough and then roll it out and cut it”, which is pretty much what this is, but I’m going to add in a few details. I did a bit of research (thank you 101 Cookbooks and the Joy of Cooking) and used a few different tips to make this my best batch of gnocchi to date. I didn’t find this to be as complicated to make as a lot of conversation out there on the interweb would have you believe, but maybe I got lucky. Either way, this is worth a shot, as the result is really something special and not purchasable in your local grocery store, I promise. Next on my list is a pumpkin version of this.
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 – 1 1/4 cups flour
1. Bake the potatoes in the oven at 400 for about an hour. Alternately you can boil them, but the water retention will change the amount of flour you need.
2. Peel and then deconstruct the potatoes with a fork or potato ricer. This is less like mashing and more like crumbling the potato, leaving you with a fluffy pile of potato.
3. Make a well in the centre of the potato and pour in the egg. Gnochhi purists will tell you not to use an egg; you are welcome to try this, but I haven’t yet, as I understand it is a lot more finicky this way and you could end up with a pot of potato/flour mush at the end of this.
4. Sprinkle over 3/4 cup of the flour and use a pastry scraper or metal spatula to start blending the dough, by bringing the outside to the middle over and over. Once it starts to come together, flour up your hands and very lightly begin to knead the dough. The key to light, fluffy gnocchi seems to be using as little flour as possible to stick it together and not overworking it. You want the dough to get to a point where it is still quite moist, just not sticking to your hands anymore (you may need to wash and dry your hands a couple times during the process to be able to recognize this point).
5. Once your dough is where you want it, cut it into 8 pieces. Take a piece and roll it into a snake about the thickness of your thumb, then cut the snake into pieces about 3/4″ long.
6. Take a fork in the palm of your hand and grab a piece of the dough. Use your thumb to press and roll it up the tines of the fork, leaving several ridges up one side and an indent on the other side. This is a step you can skip if you want, but it definitely helps the gnocchi hold onto the sauce.
7. Repeat steps 5 & 6 with the remaining pieces of dough until it’s all done; you may want to refrigerate the gnocchi on a cookie sheet as you make it so it doesn’t get too sticky. At this point, you could also freeze the gnocchi on the cookie sheet and then transfer to a freezer bag once frozen solid, and it should stay nice for about a month in the deep freeze. Or you could cover it and leave it in the fridge for a few hours before cooking.
8. To cook, boil a large pot of salted water, then add gnocchi. I put a little olive oil in there as well to break up the starch on the surface or this tends to boil over quite a bit. Once the gnocchi floats, give it about 1-2 minutes more and it’s done. Remove with a slotted spoon and put directly into sauce (of your choice) to coat. We had this with a sauce I made from the last of my frozen garden tomatoes and some spicy chicken sausage, but my sister in law makes a killer pesto cream sauce for gnocchi as well. Also, I’m told that browned butter and nutmeg is amazing with this. Do what you will.
P.S. This made just enough for our family of four; my husband and I each ate enough for two normal adults though, so adjust the size of your batch accordingly. Next time I will probably make more and freeze some.