Friday, September 9, 2011

Homemade Gnocchi

Making gnocchi is a lesson in simplicity.
I don't remember the first time I had gnocchi. I don't remember where I was, who I was with, or even if it happened earlier than a few years ago (it totally did). But I do remember a lingering fondness for these soft little potato pillows. A fondness that prompted me to make my own, and discover how such simple ingredients can be turned into something impeccable.

With just potato, flour, and some seasoning, come these delicate little treasures. The process seems intimidating, and the legends are terrifying tales of gnocchi gone wrong, but trust: If I can make these, you can make these. I'm the one who lit her microwave on fire. Twice.

Potato Gnocchi
adapted from just about everywhere
Makes 4 servings

1 pound of baking potatoes (I prefer Russet)
1 cup flour (I used unbleached, as usual)
Salt, pepper, or other spices

Leave the potatoes unpeeled. Put them in a pot of salted water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and keep at it until the potatoes are tender. This takes 30-45 minutes. Drain them and rinse with cool water so you don't scald your fingers in the next step. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil.

Gently peel off the skins (this should be easy now that the potato is cooked) and, if you are so blessed, put the potato through a ricer. If you are like me, mash it up with a combination of a masher, fork, and your frustrated hands. Add in the seasonings and mix, mix, mix. The final mixture should not resemble my grandma's mashed potatoes-- there should be no lumps and bumps.

Add about a half cup of flour or so, and gently stir it into the mixture. A soft dough will begin to form. This is good. Add a little more flour until the dough becomes something you can knead. The idea is to have as little flour in the dough as possible, so don't go crazy. Then turn it out onto a (clean) lightly floured surface and give it a quick knead.

Pinch off a little lump of dough, and gently place it into the boiling water. If it stays together, the dough is good to go. If it doesn't, then you need to add a bit more flour and try this step again until it does.

Roll your dough ball into a rope about 1.5 - 2cm thick. Cut off pieces that are about 2 - 2.5cm long, and, if you're brave, roll them off the tines of a fork to get the traditional shape. If you are not brave, do not worry, they'll taste the same.

Add the gnocchi to the boiling water a few at a time. They will dance around and rise to the surface within a few minutes, and once they've hung out on top for a minute or so, they're done! Take them out with a slotted spoon.

Eat them now. With sauce.


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