potatoes are still warm, add flour, salt and egg. Cut
ingredients together with a bench scraper, or mix by
hand until dough comes together.
thoughts turn once again to starchy sides — as they are
wont to do — can’t we for once have some dadblasted
good as it is, gnocchi’s like that crazy Uncle Shadrach
you’re always meaning to invite for the holidays but can’t
ever seem to remember because — well, you haven’t really
got a reason. Today, then, let’s call old Uncle Shadrach
and have him over for some fresh, delicious gnocchi.
YOU NEED TO LEARN THIS
their kissing cousin, pasta, Italy’s diminutive dumplings
pair well with a thousand sauces. Tomato, cream, pesto, even
a simple butter melted with fresh sage all pair perfectly
well. And, like so many other things, once you get the hang
of it, you’ll never look back.
STEPS YOU TAKE
of all, if you’re new to gnocchi, they’re light little
things, smaller than the tip of your thumb (and twice as
tender). They’re often described as having a "pillowy"
texture, and indeed, I can imagine a tiny mouse resting its
itty-bitty noggin on one of these plush creations.
are heaps and piles of gnocchi styles out there in the great
big world. For the time being, though, we’ll stick with
potato gnocchi, as that seems to be the most common variety
and it makes a good entry point. As with anything containing
just a few ingredients, the type and quality of those
ingredients have increased importance. Let’s take a look.
potato. If you fancy yourself a potato enthusiast, you know
that there’s a potato spectrum that leads from the starchy
(like a russet) to the waxy (like a new red). As a rule, we
want starchier, rather than waxier, potatoes. This is
because the waxier the potato, the more moisture it
contains, and the more moisture there is, the more flour we’re
going to need to get the dough to hold together.
we’ve got nothing against flour. It’s just that, the
more flour you have in your gnocchi, the denser and doughier
it’s going to be. And good gnocchi should be so light they
practically float off your plate, like the yeasty, buckwheat
blini of an orbiting Soviet cosmonaut. (Note to self: Find
more current cultural references.)
flour. All-purpose is fine. The question is, how much? If
you look at 10 gnocchi recipes, you’ll find 10 different
potato/flour ratios. Three-quarters of a cup per pound of
potatoes is reasonable to start. As you make gnocchi more
and more frequently and get used to the process of making
the dough, you can gradually lower the amount of flour. And
less flour means more potatoey flavor.
salt. You’ve got to season your dough. Otherwise your
gnocchi will be blander than a Lawrence Welk Christmas
special. (Note to self: Reread previous note to self.) A
good amount would be about ½ teaspoon per pound of dough.
egg. The egg adds moisture and structure, making the dough
easier to handle and the gnocchi less likely to disintegrate
in the water. It also makes it denser, which is why lots of
cooks leave it out altogether.
leave it in, though, at least your first few times making
gnocchi. Then, as with lessening the flour, you can
gradually eliminate the egg as well.
amounts used below will make 4 to 8 servings, depending on
if you want it for an appetizer or the main course.
Remember, the idea is to keep the moisture out, so baking
works really well. Bake 2 pounds of russets in a 400-degree
oven until they can be easily pierced with a skewer or
knife, 40 to 60 minutes. Let cool slightly, then peel and
pass through a ricer or food mill onto a floured surface.
While potatoes are still warm, add 1 1/2 cups flour, 1
teaspoon salt and 2 beaten egg yolks or 1 beaten egg. Cut
ingredients together with a bench scraper or mix by hand
until dough comes together.
Knead the dough briefly, keeping it dusted in flour to
prevent sticking. The finished dough should be as soft and
smooth as the freshly talcumed rump of a newborn baby. (Tip:
To test if the gnocchi will hold together while cooking,
form one piece. Drop it into boiling water. If it breaks up,
mix a little more flour into the dough.) Cut the dough into
four pieces and cover three while you work with the first
Smoosh the dough into a generally oblong shape. Place both
palms on the dough and, moving your hands forward and back
while at the same time moving them away from each other,
roll the dough into a long rope about the thickness of your
aforementioned thumb. Cut them into lengths of about
3/4-inch, and place on a floured sheet pan while you roll
the remaining dough.
Roll each gnocco (singular of gnocchi) down the tines of a
floured fork to make the little ridges that are
characteristic of gnocchi and that help the sauce cling to
Boil the gnocchi in lots of salted water. When they float to
the top, remove them to a colander with a slotted spoon,
then toss with your favorite pasta sauce and serve