Since a certain someone recently had some dental work done, he needs some soft foods for the next few weeks. I offered to make one of my favorite dishes: homemade gnocchi!
|The finished product|
Some of my readers might remember me posting a link to Salumi's gnocchi recipe. The original recipe can be found here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/549147 Salumi's also has printed copies of their gnocchi recipe available near the cash register in their store (you can just nicely ask for a copy). The previous recipe was posted in honor of their famous gnocchi maker, Aunt Izzy, who passed away in 2008. These days, Mario Batali's mother makes it almost every Tuesday. She's a really sweet lady. You should stop and say hello sometime! If you are more of a "visual learner" (like I am) and you have trouble following the recipe below, you could always stop by Salumi's on gnocchi day, and watch Mario's mother roll, cut, and strike the gnocchi from the storefront window!
Do you know the great thing about gnocchi? It's very simple to make, and it's super cheap to make! All you need is potatoes, eggs, flour, salt, cornmeal, your favorite sauce, and some of your favorite cheese (bread is optional). That's it! All together, this recipe takes ~1.5 hours to make, and about half of that time is spent waiting for the potatoes to boil. All in all, it's very easy to make, and it's delicious! It does not keep very well in leftovers since the gnocchi will just turn into mush. So if you were planning to make the whole recipe and only cook half of it, I have to strongly advise against that. The dough will turn grey, and the gnocchi will be very mushy. When you strike it the next day, the ridges will not hold very well. If you decide to make all of it and eat the leftovers the next day, I don't recommend that either. Let's put it this way: Salumi's will not serve their gnocchi even to go, let alone leftover from the day before! The texture gets mushy, and they simply will not compromise the quality of their gnocchi!
This recipe can be halved, and I listed the halved ingredients below. When halved, it will serve a generous portion for 2 or a regular sized portion for 3. The instructions are mostly the same for doing a full batch vs. a half batch. The only real difference is it takes less time with the halved recipe since you are cutting less gnocchi pieces!
I also strongly recommend using a kitchen scale that can measure in grams. I also recommend purchasing a gnocchi board (they're ~$5), a pastry scraper or cutter, and a potato ricer. If using the ricer I recommend, I suggest using the "fine" setting. Through the Amazon link below, there's a very helpful instructional video for the ricer in the Amazon reviews. If you do not have a ricer, you can use a large-hole cheese grater to break down the cooked potato into tiny bits. Remember, you don't want big chunks in your gnocchi dough, so it does need to be broken down as best as it can be. Kneading the dough also helps break down the potato chunks. I have included a link for all of the recommended tools through the Amazon widget at the bottom of this post.
Ingredients - full size / half size
500 grams potatoes (approximately 1 lb) / 250 grams potatoes (approximately 1/2 lb) (Yukon Gold is recommended, though Russets or most other types of "starchy" potato can work too)
300 grams flour / 150 grams flour
2 eggs / 1 egg
2 tsp salt / 1 tsp salt
Salt for gnocchi boiling pot
~3 tbsp + ~3 tbsp cornmeal / ~2 tbsp + ~1.5 tbsp cornmeal
Your favorite sauce (some form of marinara, spaghetti sauce, or meat sauce is recommended)
Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or any other favorite cheese), grated
Optional: Small loaf of Italian bread or French baguette (for dipping and soaking up the leftover sauce) -
- Scrub but do not peel the potatoes. Place the potatoes in a large pot of unsalted water, and bring it to a boil. Cook until they are tender - approximately 30-40 minutes. Cool and peel the potatoes while they are still warm. Be sure to cut off any dark spots from the potatoes as well. If you are short on time, you can peel the potatoes, cut them into large chunks, and then boil them for about 10-15 minutes. However, I recommend boiling the potatoes whole since they will stay together easier, and you will "lose" less potato!
- Put a separate large pot of salted water onto boil while you prepare the gnocchi dough. Alternatively, you can use the water from the potatoes you previously cooked, and you can just add salt to it. If you are going to use the potato water, it is recommended to thoroughly scrub and then boil the potatoes whole, otherwise you will have too many little chunks of potato and dirt floating in your water. Personally, I recommend just using a new pot of salted water.
- Put some flour down on your kneading surface, and press the potatoes through a ricer onto your floured surface. Add the measured flour and salt so it makes a nice round mound, and make a hole in the middle of the mound - kind of like a small bird's next. Crack the eggs into the hole.
- With your fingers, break apart the egg yolk and mix it a little bit with the egg white. Start to stir the dough mixture with your fingers, mixing the potatoes, salt, flour, and eggs together. Once you have mixed everything together and it's soft, knead the dough until it is smooth. Set it aside for 5-15 minutes to let the gluten expand.
- Flatten the ball to about a 1/2 inch thick rectangle shape, and cut the flattened side into 6 strips or so strips.
- Add more flour to your kneading surface if needed. Roll one of the strips like a snake until it gets about as big around as your thumb. You might have to break the piece in half or in three pieces as it gets longer.
- Take a butter knife or a pastry cutter and cut the "snakes" into pieces about as big as the length of the last knuckle of your index finger - a little more than half an inch. The flour on the table should help keep the gnocchi from sticking together, but do not use too much. Once you have cut all the gnocchi pieces, you can lightly roll them in the leftover flour. This can also help prevent them from sticking to each other. Remember, you want to keep the gnocchi relatively the same size since bigger gnocchi will have a longer cooking time.
- Roll the gnocchi on a fork or on a gnocchi board to "strike" the gnocchi and make ridges. The ridges on the gnocchi helps the sauce stick to the gnocchi better. Basically you roll it with the side of your thumb to make the impression on one side of the dough. It will look a little bit like a bigger version of "Velveeta shells and cheese." It can take some practice.
- Take first measurement of cornmeal and spread it on a cookie sheet. Place the "struck" pieces of gnocchi on the cookie sheet. Since you don't want the gnocchi to stick to each other, try not to place the gnocchi on top of each other as best as you can. Once the cookie sheet is full, spread the remaining cornmeal on top of the gnocchi and gently shake the cookie sheet to help roll the gnocchi in the cornmeal. This will also help prevent the gnocchi from sticking together.
This is the result from the half-recipe
- When the water is boiling, gently place half the gnocchi in the pot. I typically use a fine mesh strainer spoon to place the gnocchi in the pot. A "spider" wok tool will work too, as will a large slotted spoon. I just like using as wide of a tool as possible so I can get as much gnocchi into the pot as possible at the same time, and I prefer to not just toss all the cornmeal into the pot and I don't want to run the risk of having "gnocchi mush" if the gnocchi gets stuck to each other while sliding off the cookie sheet.
- At first, the gnocchi will sink to the bottom. After a minute or two, the gnocchi will float to the top. Once it has floated to the top, cook it for one more minute. (Hint: this is why you want to try to get all the gnocchi to be the same size and put it in the boiling water at the same time). Once it has been cooking at the top of the water for one minute, scoop the gnocchi out and put it in a colander to drain. Repeat for the remaining gnocchi.
- Serve the gnocchi in warm bowls with a couple spoonfuls of sauce, and grate some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese on top. I typically serve it with some meat sauce, and I use some of my meatball meat I always keep in the freezer. I will post another post with my meatball meat recipe in the near future!