Monday, April 23, 2007


After I read “Heat,"I wanted to pack up my bags, fly to Italy, and learn the techniques passed down from generation to generation for authetic Italian dishes. A girl can dream right? Gnocchi is one dish I wanted to learn how to make. I have never had a really good gnocchi but they’re rumored to be little pillows as light as a cloud that melt in your mouth.

I didn’t expect much to come out of my first attempt because gnocchi is something that takes a long time to get right. There are many factors that can affect the gnocchi. It's easy for them to become chewy and dense but recipes have many tips to help prevent this. Potatoes should be baked rather than boiled to minimize the amount of liquid they absorb. I learned from Elise that older potatoes are drier and better for gnocchi. Although, many recipes call for an egg, it can also contribute to dense gnocchi so eggs should be avoided. You should use as little flour as possible to bring the dough together but enough so the dough isn’t sticky. Knead as lightly and as little as possible, the more you knead, the stickier and denser the dough becomes and the more flour you will have to incorporate. That's a lot to keep in mind for something that only requires 2 ingredients. Oy!

Since gnocchi are so light, they are best accompanied by a light sauce with some (I like a generous amount) grated Parmesan on top. A classic sauce is one of browned butter and sage. A smooth tomato sauce is another good pairing with gnocchi. Gnocchi can be frozen on a tray then in a zipper lock bag and keep for 1 month.

Potato Gnocchi

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated

2 lbs Russet potatoes, about 4 – 5, washed
1 1/4 C AP flour (you may need to use up to 1 1/2)
1/2 tsp of salt

Poke holes all over the potatoes and bake the potatoes at 400°F until you can pierce them easily with a skewer or knife and feel no resistance, about 45 minutes to an hour. Be sure to bake the potatoes long enough so they lose as much moisture as possible.

When the potatoes can be handled, peel or cut them in half and scoop out the flesh. Put the potatoes through a ricer. A potato ricer is ideal because it keeps the potato fluffy so I might go out and buy one for next time. Alternatively, you can gently break and fluff up the potatoes up with a fork. I read that you can push it through the back of a fine mesh sieve but that didn’t work for me. Smitten Kitchen’s Deb used a grater to grate the potatoes. I have to try this sometime because it sounds like a great idea. Spread the riced potatoes over a baking sheet or large cutting board to allow the potato to dry out some more.

First sprinkle 1 1/4 C of flour and the salt over the riced potatoes, then bring the dough together and gently knead a little until smooth. You only want to incorporate the flour with the potatoes. If the dough is sticky add more flour, up to 1 1/2 C total (I misread this and thought it said additional... oops that's a lot of flour). Be careful not to overwork the dough, the more you knead the stickier the dough will get and the more flour you will end up incorporating (a mistake I made).

Have a pot of simmering water ready. Break off a piece of the dough and form into a gnocchi. Cook this test piece to gauge if you need to add more flour to the dough. The gnocchi is ready when it floats. If it tastes mushy, work in another 2 Tbsp to 1/4 C of flour. It's better to try a piece of the gnocchi than ruin an entire batch.

To make the gnocchi, roll a portion of the dough into a log about 3/4-in diameter and cut into 3/4-in pieces. Roll the piece down the tines of a fork. The grooves from the tines and the indentation from your finger will hold the sauce.

Simmer the gnocchi until they float, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes (3 minutes for frozen). Serve with sauce and grated parmesan.

I still haven't gotten the hang of rolling them down the tines part. My gnocchi were a bit dense and chewy, probably because I kneaded too much and added way too much flour. It was still fun so I’ll try again soon.

Elise’s simple recipe for potato gnocchi
Deb is smitten with gnocchi

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