Before we quick whipped up a batch of gnocchi, we checked on the Internet for a few tips about gnocchi. While we’ve made it before, it never hurts to see if there are some good ideas out there.
And, we found ideas that seemed break down into three categories: 1) gnocchi is really difficult; so difficult that many people are afraid even to try making it, or that they tried and it was a disaster so they won’t try again; 2) to make gnocchi, you need one of the following: grater, grinder, ricer, dicer, shredder, masher, or some other specialized device to mash the potatoes correctly; and, 3) some ritual involving the cooking method of the potatoes: baked, boiled, boiled in salted water, boiled after being halved, hopping on one foot while the potatoes cool, etc.
We’re going to address all three of these in our gnocchi. To resolve the fear of disaster, we suggest that you put on steel-toed boots, ear protection, and safety goggles. Just kidding! Remember they are nothing but small potato dumplings and try again; we’ll attempt to give you a few tips as we work through this recipe. Specialized equipment? Bah. People have been making gnocchi for hundreds of years. In all kinds of conditions and kitchens. In fact, go rent La Strada and watch the background and let us know if you think there were many ricers available when that movie was filmed. And, to show you that you can make great gnocchi without anything special, we are going to make gnocchi with a knife, fork, and bowl. Actually, the bowl is optional; you could just use your counter. And as far as cooking goes, we’ll just microwave the potatoes. Sure, Italian grandmothers wouldn’t have a microwave, but the cooking method isn’t important.
Finally, we say right up front that we are making our gnocchi with an egg. We hear some of you saying, “Gnocchi isn’t made with eggs!” Bah again: some gnocchi doesn’t have eggs, some gnocchi does, some doesn’t have potatoes, some does, some doesn’t use (wheat) flour, some does. If you want gnocchi without eggs, fine, make your own recipe; ours has an egg.
- 1 pound potatoes, we used Yukon Gold
- 1 egg
- 1/2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
You might have read that the type of potato must be a Russet, or at least some sort of baking potato with a lot of starch. Could be, but we’ve made gnocchi with Red La Sodas, Yukon Golds, and probably a couple of other kinds, too. Sure, the gnocchi might turn out a bit different, but it’s all good. One thing we try to do is use organic, since potatoes are on the dirty dozen list.
Clean potatoes. Wash up the potatoes, cut out any bad spots, stab them a few times with a knife so they won’t explode (yes, they really do!), and you’re good to go.
Cook potatoes. We just pop ’em in the microwave for 7-10 minutes, then let ’em sit for about 5 minutes more and they’re done. Check to make sure they are completely done; in this batch, we did have a few spots that were less than done, which made for a few lumps in the gnocchi. No big deal, we like lumpy mashed potatoes, too.
Peel potatoes. Use your paring knife to peel off the skins. Try to get just the peel and not too much potato. No special reason, just so you have more potato to work with. Once peeled, place them in a medium-sized bowl.
Shred potatoes. Now, using your fork, scrape the potatoes into shreds, taking care not to actually mash the potatoes. Drag the tines of your fork along the potato, as though you were raking along the sides. While doing this, think “cloud, cloud, cloud.” Try to keep those potatoes fluffy.
Add egg. Scrape the potatoes to one side of the bowl, crack in the egg, and mix the egg with your fork. Once you’ve mixed the egg, start incorporating the potato, bit by bit. Try to use more of a lifting motion with the fork, rather than a pushing motion. Again, think “cloud, cloud, cloud,” and try to keep your potatoes as fluffy as a cloud.
Add flour. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of flour over the potato-egg mixture, and, again using a mixing motion that is more lifting than pushing, work in the flour. Now’s the time to think of Bob Ross, saying “cloud, cloud, cloud,” to help you keep everything light.
Add more flour. Add another 1/4 cup of flour in the same fashion, and, once you’ve incorporated the flour, check the dough. It should be just a bit tacky, not too much, just a bit.
Knead. On a floured work surface, dump out the gnocchi dough. Coat you hands with flour, and lightly, lightly, knead the gnocchi dough about 10-15 times. Be as gentle as possible, you are making gnocchi, not bread.
Roll out. Cut the dough into four pieces, and working with one, roll out into a log about the thickness of your finger. If need be, and it will be needed, coat your hands and the dough and the counter with flour.
Cut. Cut the log into pieces about 3/4-inch long, pick up each piece and give it a light squeeze to press in the middle a bit, and place on a lined cookie sheet. We think of replicating phalanges (the finger bones) when we are shaping gnocchi, which is appropriate since gnocchi means knuckle. Some people will take each piece and roll along the tines of a fork; that’s fine, we don’t bother.
Freeze. Once you’ve shaped all the gnocchi, place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Freezing makes gnocchi so much easier to work with at cooking time. It should take about 30 minutes.
Boil water. Boil up a kettle of salted water (about 2 quarts with a teaspoon of salt). You might as well add a bit of salt to the water, since we didn’t use any in making the gnocchi.
Add gnocchi. Put about 1/3 of the gnocchi in the water. They’ll sink to the bottom. Perfect. Let the water come back to a boil, and the gnocchi will start floating to the surface. Floating is the indicator that they are done, so remove the cooked gnocchi with a slotted spoon and cook up some more.
Sauce. Either place the gnocchi in your sauce, or place them in a large bowl for saucing later, but make sure to eat as soon as all the gnocchi are done.
So, how was that? No ricer, dicer, or Ronco gnocchi-away. Just a fork, knife, and bowl. While we don’t pretend to know everything about gnocchi, we really think the secret is using a very light touch when mixing the dough. Don’t handle anything too much, and you’ll be fine. Sure, sometimes the gnocchi you make will be better than other times. That’s ok! That’s the nature of scratchin’ up your own food. If you think you’ve had an unmitigated disaster, all that you wasted was a few potatoes, which really isn’t too bad (do keep a box of emergency relief pasta handy, though).