Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gnocchi Guru

A friend of mine asked me if I could make gnocchi this past winter.  She told me that her daughter had gnocchi at an Italian restaurant in New Hersey and had really enjoyed it.  She was hesitant to buy the dehydrated shelf stable gnocchi at our local grocery store for fear that it would not measure up to her daughter’s expectations.
I have made gnocchi before, and each time with different results.  I have poured over many a recipe, website and magazine article.  I even got a secret family recipe from a college friend once for his grandmother’s gnocchi.  But due to the mixed results I seem to produce, I was a little hesitant to volunteer to be a gnocchi guru.
In looking over even more recipes, I found one that included some egg, and seemed to give some step by step instructions.  The gnocchi could be produced in a grand total of 2 hours, which is the max attention span time limit when making food with children.  There was enough “waiting” time in which small ones can leave the kitchen and run around before coming back and getting to work.
I find that the most difficult part in making gnocchi; is making it look good.  You can gently roll the little sections of dough off the back of a fork and create a little groove with dimples or you can simply stick your finger into each piece and flick it to create a small hallow space.  Thankfully, a friend volunteered to do that part, which is why these gnocchi look good.  I lose patience after about a dozen segments and the appearance of my gnocchi deteriorate greatly as the process wears on.
This was a wonderful project to take on with friends, children playmates and a little booze.  It make the tedious turn into a joyful experience, and I think that is exactly the way almost every meal should be approached.  The adults here were so enamored with the gnocchi that several very picky children expressed excitement in trying the end result. 
And for the little girl who was to compare the homemade gnocchi with her restaurant version – she told me it was even better than that dish she had in New Jersey.  Now that is a pretty wonderful compliment.

Homemade Gnocchi
As adapted from  Jenifer Mangione Vogt found on

 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes, scrubbed and pricked all over with a fork
1 – 1 ¼ c flour
3 egg yolks (whites reserved)
Pinch of nutmeg
Large pinch of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Roast the potatoes in their skins for about 45minutes to an hour (depending on their size).  They are done, when the skins appear to be a bit loose, and there are some darker brown spots on the potatoes.  Let the potatoes cool.

Peel the potatoes, removing the thicker tough layer just under the skin.  Grate the potatoes on the large holes of a box grater, and place in a large bowl.

Add in the egg yolks, flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Begin to stir this together to fully incorporate everything.  Once the mixture becomes more stiff, use your hands to fully combine into a dough.  If the dough won’t stay together easily when pinched, add some of the egg whites. Or if the dough seems too wet and sticky add a bit more flour – keeping in mind you will need some flour to roll the gnocchi out.

Once the mixture is combined, divide it into 4 even pieces.  Roll these pieces out into a ½” diameter rope.  Cut the rope into ¾” pieces.  Roll each piece off the back of a fork, pressing slightly to make groves in the gnocchi, or simply press your finger into each piece, roll it gently towards you and then flick it away.

Place the gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer, and freeze for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Once the gnocchi are frozen, drop 7-10 in the pot at a time.  Once they float to the surface, skim them out, and place on a kitchen towel lined sheet.  Repeat with remaining gnocchi until all are cooked.  At this point, you can refreeze the gnocchi to save them for later, or you can add them to a sauce. 

We baked ours in a mixture of cheese, spinach and heavy cream for an easy gratin.

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