It was kind of on a whim, and kind of a prodding. Making gnocchi this week, that is. Those little dumplings made of only a few ingredients — potatoes, flour, eggs, salt and butter. Sounds simple, right? A bit more time consuming than simple, but these little labors of love are totally worth it. One of my food passions are dishes of ancient origin, so gnocchi, with its Roman ties, is right up that alley and is one of my family’s favorite Italian meals. We always pan-sear ours before serving for breakfast or for dinner.
A couple of tips when making gnocchi. First, gnocchi should be light and fluffy, and like, everyone says, a pillow or a cloud once you bite into it. Making gnocchi is a tempermental process, and there are a few parts of the process where, if not gotten just right, the gnocchi is left too heavy and dense. First, they are lighter if you slice the potatoes open immediately after cooking to release the steam. This applies whether baking or boiling the potatoes. (Be sure to keep the potatoes in their skins when cooking.) Secondly, your work surface, which should be your counter, must be kept well floured when rolling out your gnocchi. Third, knead for about five minutes, but no longer. Just as in baking, you can mix for too long. Next, be sure to create ridges in the dumpling. This is a step often skipped, but it’s the perfect place to involve the whole family. The ridges catch the flavor of however the gnocchi is served. Lastly, remember that handmade gnocchi cook very quickly, remove them from the pot of salted water as soon as they rise to the top with a mesh skimmer ladle and lay them out on a baking sheet before pan-searing…never ever dump them into a strainer unless you want them to meld into a very large ball of boiled dough.
Ok, here’s the recipe! You can either serve with a lovely red sauce after boiling the
gnocchi, or, as we always do, pan-sear in warmed herb olive oil. I usually make gnocchi on a Saturday night and serve with a lamb ragu that has been slow-cooked all day. Some of the gnocchi is saved for Sunday morning to serve with sauteed kale and sunny-side up eggs.
4-5 russet potatoes, med potatoes, about 2.5 lbs
2 c flour
1 tsp salt
1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk
6 T unsalted butter
¼ c olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
½ c freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
*** To make gluten free, use a 1-for-1 alternative flour substitute. If too tacky upon kneading, add potato starch.
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Prick potatoes with fork, place on baking sheet. Bake for 1 hour, turning halfway, until soft.
- Cut hot potatoes in half lengthwise; allow to sit for 5 minutes. Scoop out potato flesh, transferring into a bowl. Using a potato ricer, mash potatoes. If you do not have a potato ricer, grate the potatoes. Lay potatoes out onto a floured counter. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes to dry a bit. Push potatoes together so there are no large gapped spaces. Season with salt.
- Beat together egg and egg yolk. Spread a bit of flour over the potatoes. Mix potatoes and flour, and spread out again on counter. Add more flour over potatoes. Add
melted butter and eggs on top of flour. Knead for about 5 minutes until ball is dry to touch. If sticky, add additional flour to dough. Remember too much flour produces heavy gnocchi, so each addition of
extra flour should be light. Roll dough into a log, then cut into slices with about 1” thickness. Roll each slice into a rope. Cut each rope into 1” lengths.
- For each tiny 1″ piece, press and roll against the tines on the backside of a fork to
create ridges. Cover with a towel so they do not dry out.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil over medium-high heat. Remove any excess flour from gnocchi using a pastry brush. Working in batches, drop gnocchi in 3 or 4 batches into water and cook, undisturbed, until half of them float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes.
- Once floating, remove and place on a baking sheet.
- Saute oil, thyme, and rosemary in a large skillet over low heat. Transfer enough just-cooked gnocchi to the skillet to form a single layer. Toss lightly to coat, making sure none stick together. Saute until they have a golden exterior, with slight browning of the crust on each gnocco (singular version of gnocchi). Sprinkle cheese evenly over gnocchi while in skillet. Remove once cheese has melted a bit.
- Serve with a red sauce, a cream sauce, or for breakfast with a drippy egg.
Enjoy!! Happy Eating!