Up until I received “Lidia’s Italy” cookbook as a Christmas gift a few years ago, I had never tried to make gnocchi. We used to buy gnocchi from an Italian store/deli made by the owner’s wife. Delightful little pillows; so no need for me to! Sadly the closed and we were forced to give it a go. They are not hard to make at all and come together fairly quickly. Since that first batch I’ve made a few different types of gnocchi, without egg, using Yukon Golds, butternut squash and sweet potato.
Makes 6 Servings
1 ½ lbs. baking (russet) potatoes
¾ tsp. salt
2 large eggs, beaten well
1 ½ cups unbleached flour, plus more for working with the dough
You will need a potato ricer or vegetable mill with a medium disk to make the gnocchi.
Put the potatoes, whole and unpeeled, in a large pot with cold water to cover by at least 2”. Bring to a steady boil and cook just until they are easily pierced with a fork or a sharp knife blade; don’t overcook or let the skins burst. Remove the potatoes from the water and let them drain briefly. If the skins do burst a bit, place the potatoes onto paper towels to absorb some of the water they may have absorbed. Peel and press through the ricer or food mill as soon as you can handle the potatoes, so their moisture will evaporate. I press them directly onto a large baking sheet and spread them out very lightly, then sprinkle the potatoes with the salt. Let them cool and dry for a minimum of 20 minutes but preferably for 2 – 3 hours. The dryer they are the lighter the gnocchi will be.
To mix the dough: pile the potatoes in a large, loose mound on a clean work surface. Pour the beaten eggs over them, then sprinkle 1 cup of flour on top. Using your hands, work in the eggs, mixing and moistening the flour & potatoes. Gather into a single mass and knead for several minutes, scraping up sticky bits from the work surface and your hands. Incorporate additional flour in small amounts, only as needed, until the dough is smooth, soft and only slightly sticky. Avoid adding too much flour, as it will make the gnocchi heavy and dry.
To form the dough into gnocchi: cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. On a work surface, very lightly sprinkled with flour, roll one piece under your hands into a thick cylinder, continuing to roll it into a long rope, about 2/3” thick. With a sharp knife or dough cutter, cut the rope into ½” pieces. Dust lightly with flour. Tip: I bought myself a little gnocchi board to make the grooves.
Place the gnocchi in a single layer, onto two lightly floured large baking trays. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi (I freeze one of the baking trays of gnocchi then remove the gnocchi once frozen and place them into a freezer bag).
To cook the gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add 1 – 2 Tbsp. salt. Add the gnocchi and within a few minutes, they will begin to rise to the surface, once they have all risen, cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the boiling water with a “spider” or large slotted spoon to a warm serving bowl. Do not attempt to drain into a colander, as the gnocchi are delicate and will either break or get mushy. Dress with the sauce. Serve immediately.