Say Yes to Gnocchi

Some say “no-key.” Others “gnaw-key.” No matter how you pronounce it, those little potato dumplings go over pretty well at our house . . . so much so that there is winter gnocchi and a summer gnocchi. The winter one is topped with a mushroom sugo. Summer is pesto – little potato pillows tossed in basil pesto and usually eaten with corn on the cob outside on the patio. I also make a tomato cream sauce, which is more of an any season version.

Making gnocchi is time consuming – definitely a Saturday project. I always make extra and put them in the freezer on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper. When they are frozen solid, I put them in a freezer bag for a rainy day. Tonight was a rainy day. It’s Wednesday yoga so Scott made the gnocchi topped with jarred pasta sauce. We have a couple of favorites – Barilla Marinara and Bertolli Tomato & Basil. They both ranked pretty high in a Cook’s Illustrated taste test a few years ago so they have been my go-to jarred sauce ever since.

No matter how you sauce it, this is the best gnocchi recipe I have tried (and I have tried several). The key is baking rather than boiling the potatoes. This results in a light, fluffy dumpling. If you have kids, they can help you shape them and roll them on a fork or whisk to create those important ridges where your sauce of choice nestles.

Potato Gnocchi slightly adapted from Michael Chiarello

serves 6

1 pound russet potatoes

3 to 4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Place potatoes directly on oven rack. Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 2 cups. Make a mound of potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle, add 3 of the egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix in the potatoes and mix well with hands. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together, (try not to knead it.) Work any dough clinging to your fingers back into the dough. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. To test if the dough is the correct consistency, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2-inch in diameter. If the dough holds together, it is ready. If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times, and test again.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with the tines of a large fork turned upside down or a whisk. Rest the bottom edge of the fork or whisk on the work surface, then tilt it at about a 45 degree angle. Take each piece and squish it lightly with your thumb against the the fork or whisk while simultaneously pushing it away from you. It will roll away and around your thumb, taking on a cupped shape — with ridges on the outer curve from the tines and a smooth surface on the inner curve where your thumb was. The indentation holds the sauce and helps gnocchi cook faster.

As you shape the gnocchi, dust them lightly with flour and scatter them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or waxed paper and let sit for up to an hour. If you will not cook the gnocchi until the next day or later, freeze them. Alternatively, you can poach them now, drain and toss with a little olive oil, let cool, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. To reheat, dip in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then toss with browned butter until hot.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve with the sauce of your choice.

Ratings:

Me: N/A (Arm balances for 1 1/2 hours, then a few handfuls of peanut butter pretzels.)

Scott: N/A (He had something else from the freezer I will save for another post.)

Luca:  A+ (This is one of his favorite meals.)

Alia: B (She likes gnocchi, but not as much as her brother).

 

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