This gnocchi recipe comes to you courtesy of my nephew, Luke. My brother Mike and his family went on a family vacation to New York City 5 years ago. When they got back, my sister-in-law Catherine told me that Luke had eaten and fallen in love with gnocchi while on the trip. And since “Aunt Lori was the best cooker in the world”, he wanted to know if I knew how to make it.
Alas for my sweet nephew, Aunt Lori had never made gnocchi until today. Why? Because it was something I grew up eating in Brazil and it intimidated me. Even my mom, who was an amazing home cook, never attempted gnocchi from scratch. We would only eat it in Italian restaurants or enjoy it in “to go” orders from catering services (marmitas, for those of Brazilian backgrounds).
Perhaps gnocchi are intimidating because the potato dough appears to be very delicate and fragile. When prepared correctly, those little dumplings are light and creamy, and they grab sauces in their little grooves, creating a great mouth experience. Serve with some fried polenta or fresh focaccia and you have quite the meal.
But Steve and I find ourselves working to move back to Kansas, which means leaving Mike, Catherine, Cole, and Luke behind in Arizona. And I have been stewing on that lately and thinking I at least owed Luke an attempt at gnocchi. C’mon… when he was little, he thought Aunt Lori was the “best cooker in the world”. That kind of support deserves stepping outside my comfort zone!
So, Luke, this dish is for you. If I don’t get a chance to make some gnocchi for you before we leave, you can always ask for it when you come to see us in Kansas. Or maybe your mom or dad might give this recipe a try and make it for you first. Regardless, I made this thinking of you, sweetie.
Making gnocchi from scratch
Yeah, not much, huh? By the way, the salt is pink because I have been trying out some Himalayan pink salt. You can use regular salt. No problem.
Start by boiling the potatoes until completely tender, but before the skin splits.
Then move them to a strainer and peel off the skin as soon as you can handle them, but while they are still hot or quite warm. My research indicates that the hotter the potato when riced, the lighter the gnocchi. I placed the VERY hot potatoes on a cutting board and used my finger tips to grab and peel off the skin. The skins came of VERY easily.
Then cut the potatoes into thirds and press using a potato ricer or a food mill into a large bowl. I don’t have a ricer, so I used a food mill. Once the bulk of the potatoes had been mashed, I used a silicone spatula to press what was left through the ricing grater…
…ending up with this.
Allow to come to room temperature. About 20 minutes or so.
Then mix a beaten egg into the riced potatoes. Add the flour mix a bit at a time because it is one of those “just as much as you need for the dough to set” things.
I stopped a bit short of using all the flour in the recipe. You basically want a dough that comes together, but is still just a bit sticky and somewhat delicate. Too much flour may make the dough less sticky, but will make your little gnocchi dumplings dense and heavy.
Transfer the dough from the bowl onto a cleaned and lightly floured counter surface. Knead just enough to make it soft and pliable (which is as little as possible). Then shape it into an oblong and place it on a floured section of counter. Cover it with a clean tea towel to keep moist.
Then, grab a nice handful of the dough and roll it out on a lightly floured counter until you have an approximately 1/2-inch rope of equal thickness throughout. Lightly floured is important, again, to keep the gnocchi light and fluffy. Keeping the rope thickness even will ensure that all the gnocchi cooks at the same time.
Then use a pastry scraper/chopper to cut the ropes into 1/2-inch sections. Since I did not have a pastry chopper, I used a pizza slicer. It worked really well!
Then, using the back tines of a fork at about a 45° angle, lightly press each cut of dough and then roll it down the tines. The goal is to create a bit of dough with the tine grooves on the outside and a slight valley on the inside. The little valley and the groves provide cavities to hold sauce or seasoning for the final product.
Once cut and scored, place the shaped gnocchi on a floured metal sheet.
Ideally, you would use an gnocchi board to score the dumplings. I am planning to get one of those real soon, so I can repeat this recipe for Luke with the real thing. A fork works wonderfully, but my research indicates a gnocchi board works faster.
If not cooking right away, the gnocchi dumplings should keep for about 3 hours at room temperature. Simply shake the sheet pans to coat them in the flour and then cover with a dish towel until ready to cook.
Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of salted, rolling boiling water. Drop them in 3-4 batches (not all at once), and stir occasionally until they float to the top. Cook for another minute after they float to the top, then lift and strain the gnocchi out of the water.
Transfer the cooked gnocchi to a pan where you have heated your sauce of choice to low. Add and stir subsequent batches until all the gnocchi has been cooked and is now warm and coated by your sauce of choice.
Then plate the gnocchi, topping with grated Parmesan and fresh herbs to taste.
I am SO impressed with this recipe, which turns out to be a combination of several Brazilian and American recipes I researched. To be honest, I fully expected the gnocchi to turn out dense and heavy on my first attempt, and I was quite happy to have been proved wrong.
I used a basic tomato sauce. But these babies can be served in so many ways! Olive oil and garlic. Pesto. Dropped into soups. Or even caramelized in skillets with butter. There is no limit to the varieties you can create!
We are talking tender, fluffy little potato and flour pillows of goodness. Coated in a simple but savory fresh sauce. Warm, melt-in-your-mouth, little Italian bits of heaven. Not my usual low-carb fare, but oh so delicious!
Seriously, people. Don’t let scratch made gnocchi intimidate you like it used to intimidate me. So fresh, light and tasty compared to store versions. Give it a try!
- 2 pounds russet potatoes about 2 large, washed
- 2 cups flour plus more for rolling
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 large egg lightly beaten
- Place the potatoes with skin on into a large sauce pan and cover with water by about 2 inches. Using medium high heat, bring to a boil, then partially cover and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 35 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when punctured with a skewer, but before the skin splits.
- Transfer the potatoes to a strainer.
- As soon as you can handle the potatoes, use your fingertips to peel off the skin. The hotter the potatoes when riced, the lighter the gnocchi.
- Cut the peeled potatoes into thirds. Over a large bowl, press the potatoes through a ricer or process though a food mill using a ricer-sized grater. Allow to come to room temperature. About 20 minutes.
- In the meantime, mix the flour and salt together and sprinkle two large metal sheets with flour. When the riced potato has cooled, pour the beaten egg over the potatoes. Then add the seasoned flour in thirds, kneading with each addition. Add the flour until the dough becomes cohesive, but is still just a little sticky and tender. Do not over-mix or the gnocchi may become dense and tough. You may not use all the flour.
- Scoop the dough onto a lightly floured clean counter, knead just until it is smooth, and shape into an oblong. Cover with a clean dish towel to prevent drying.
- Grab a handful of dough and gently roll, over a lightly floured surface, into a 1/2-inch thick rope. Then use a pastry scraper to cut 1/2-inch sections. Roll the sections of dough over the back tines of a fork held at a 45° angle. The result should look like a section of dough grooved on one side, with a bit of a valley on the other side.
- Place the shaped gnocchi on the flowered baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, using both prepared baking sheets to keep the gnocchi from sticking together. The gnocchi can keep up to about 3 hours at room temperature before cooking.
- Cook the gnocchi in 6 quarts of salted water on a rolling boil. Cook in 3-4 batches, stirring occasionally, until they float to the top, then cook one minute more.
- Lift cooked gnocchi from the water, with a slotted utensil and transfer to a large pan or skillet containing your heated sauce of choice. Repeat until all the gnocchi has been cooked.
- Toss in the sauce and serve immediately.