try again. Isn't that the truth!
One of my
favorite vehicles for pesto is homemade potato gnocchi (pronounced NYO-key).
The ridges created by the gnocchi board - or the tines of a fork - provide the
perfect nooks and crannies for catching all that basil-y goodness, augmented by
pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano. The pesto making is easy.... but not so much
foray into gnocchi making was a true disaster. I found a recipe for pumpkin
gnocchi in an Italian cookbook and wanted to make them for my friend Susan
(principal cellist of the Albany Symphony Orchestra) and her boyfriend, as she
had given me the book for my birthday. Never being shy about testing recipes on
friends, I forged ahead. The recipe said to mix the pumpkin with flour and egg
until a soft dough forms, adding "1 or 2 tablespoons of flour" so
that the dough isn't too soft. Never
having done this, I made some not very good assumptions about what "soft
adding flour until it felt, to me, like a decent "soft dough." I set
them on waxed paper to rest and went about making a brown butter sauce with
sage. I then boiled them following the instructions and they floated to the
surface as promised. I bathed them in brown butter and sage, and presented them proudly
at the table with slivers of smoked ricotta cheese.
bite... Rubber? No, wait... more like silicon. They were truly awful. I offered
to take the plates and make something else but they, being ever so polite, kept
on eating the little doorstops and exclaiming that the "flavor" was
wonderful (even if the texture worried them in terms of future digestive
attempt was not much better. Mark and I were in Montalcino, Tuscany, with a
group of friends - about 12 in all. His cousin Cathy offered to make her famous
vodka sauce and I volunteered to make gnocchi. Knowing my prior mistake of
adding too much flour, I assumed a tweak here and there would take care of it.
Little did I know that the opposite of "too much flour" yields an
even less-satisfying result. Again,
they looked great before being cooked but once they hit the water, many of them
fell to pieces creating starchy potato water. Enough dumplings survived
to feed the masses but I can still feel the sting of failure even today.
Recently, San Diego friends David and David visited us in Arizona. One of the
Davids (I will keep this simple) is a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) graduate, and I
asked his help in getting my gnocchi to the right consistency. With David's expertise, suddenly perfect gnocchi were no longer a dream to
The advice? Knead the dough gently and get it to the point where it
feels "silky" or "satiny" as it would for any bread dough - and when you poke it with your
finger, the indent lingers a bit and springs back somewhat simultaneously.
rolling of the gnocchi was also a mystery for a while but, once I saw it
happen, it made perfect sense. Check out the photo sequence above (thanks to Mark!) and, if
using the tines of a fork, follow the same directions. I tend to make a lot at
once and then freeze them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment. Once
frozen, I put them in freezer bags and take them out as needed.
secret to making perfect gnocchi: don't crowd the pot when boiling them. Adding
too many at once, especially if frozen, will lower the water temperature, they won't boil properly and
they will fall apart.
I like to
serve regular gnocchi with either a simple basil pesto or with brown butter, sage and
Parmigiano-Reggiano. It is also traditional to serve them with a tomato sauce,
and I particularly like Marcella Hazan's buttery tomato sauce.
Gnocchi - Gnocchi di Patate
2 large baking potatoes (I used russet potatoes), about 2 pounds total
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 to 2 cups flour
potatoes whole in lightly salted water until tender and easily pierced with a
sharp knife - about 45 minutes. Drain.
as you can hold them (I suggest using a pot holder or kitchen mitt), peel them
and put the flesh through a ricer into a bowl set on a scale - you should have about 1 3/4 pounds of riced potato. Place the potato onto a large wooden board. Sprinkle with the salt,
then add eggs and 1 1/2 cups flour and, using a dough scraper and your hands,
start mixing the ingredients together to form a soft dough. Continue to add the
remaining flour as needed, kneading lightly as you go, until you have a dough
that isn't sticky, feels satiny and, when pressed with a finger, springs back
slightly yet leaves some of the indentation. Cover the dough with a dampened kitchen
towel and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
a small hunk of dough and re-cover the remaining dough with the towel. Gently
roll the piece into a 3/4-inch "snake" as shows above. Using the
dough scraper, cut the snake into 3/4-inch pieces. (Sometimes, I find it helps to roll the pieces into balls.) Using well floured hands
(and continue to flour them as needed) and, using your thumb and forefinger, take a dumpling and roll it down the gnocchi board
(or the tines of a dinner fork), pushing in with your thumb as you go to create
a small hollow (as shown above). Place finished gnocchi on a baking sheet.
are not planning to use them (or maybe not all of them) right away, freeze them
on the baking sheet. When completely frozen, they will come off the sheet
easily and can be stored in bags or other containers until needed.
the oven to 300°F.
the gnocchi, bring a large, wide pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnocchi 10-15 at a time (if
cooking frozen ones, cook fewer as not to lower the water temperature) and let
them boil until they float. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon and
place them in buttered (or oiled, depending on which sauce you want to use)
baking dish, adding more butter or oil to them to prevent them for sticking.
Place the baking dish in the oven to keep warm while you cook the others using
the same method.
gnocchi have been cooked, toss them with your favorite sauce - or simply butter
and Parmigiano-Reggiano - and serve.
makes approximately approximately 150 gnocchi. I use about 9-10 gnocchi for a first course
Labels: gnocchi, potato