Gnocchi: Knee-O-Key

If you've never had freshly made gnocchi, you're in for a treat. Derived from an Italian word for "a knot in wood", these little potato dumplings are Italian comfort food at its simplest.

Sure, you can get pre-made gnocchi at the grocery store, but if you want them to taste like the delicate little potato pillows they can be I suggest you make them yourself. Like the frittata, gnocchi can be dressed many ways with your favorite sauces. Plus, they can easily be frozen for later use.

At first, I thought making gnocchi would be pretty difficult. I was anticipating a big sticky mess on my hands, literally. But actually, the whole task was quite simple- it took more time to boil the potatoes than it did to knead the dough and shape the dumplings!

Here's what you need for the gnocchi:

 Not a lot going on here, you'll notice. You do need one piece of equipment- a potato ricer. I got mine for around $20 at Bed Bath & Beyond.

To get started, cook the potatoes in salty water until fork tender- you want to keep the skin intact to lock in all those good starches we need. In the mean time, take your flour and make a nice little flour crater. Or well. Whatever.
While the potatoes are still warm we're going to play a little game of hot potato. Grab the potato with a kitchen towel or oven mitt and get to peeling. Just don't burn yourself! After they're peeled, put them through the ricer, one half at a time, right over your little crater.
My crater could have stood to be a little larger.

Next, while the potatoes are still hot, incorporate the flour and potatoes together until they're just combined. Don't over do it or they can get gummie! The pastry scraper I got for Christmas was wonderful for this task- highly recommended!
Shape the dough into a brick, cut into six even pieces and pretend your in preschool again and roll each section into a big snake, about 1/2 inch thick. Then get your pastry cutter again and cut the snake into 3/4 inch pieces. Flour generously as needed so it doesn't stick to everything!
Now, this is probably the most difficult part of the whole recipe. Each little pillow gets rolled down the back of a fork to give it the gnocchi look you may recognize. With practice you will gain more finesse!
Be careful to not let the dumplings touch one another or they will turn into one giant gnocchi!

Plop these little darlings into a raging pot of boiling water and skim off the top as soon as they pop to the water's surface. Toss them directly into your sauce of choice and you have dinner! Might I suggest a sage brown butter or a creamy Gorgonzola sauce? Maybe a tomato sauce, or a simple dusting of cheese on the lighter side.
If you wanted to save your gnocchi for later, you can arrange the uncooked, formed dumplings onto baking sheets lined with wax paper and dusted with flour and freeze until you're ready to use them. You can then pick up where you left off and toss them directly into the boiling water as before.

Check in tomorrow to see how I made the delicious tomato sauce in the photo!

2lb Russet potatoes
2 c all-purpose flour
Potato ricer

1. Clean potatoes, leave skin intact. Cover potatoes with cold, salty water and bring to a boil. Cover pot and let cook 30-45 min until fork tender.
2. Dump the flour into a mound on the counter and circle your hand around in the middle to form a well.
3. While potatoes are still hot, peel them with a paring knife using a kitchen towel to hold the hot potato.
3. Press the potatoes, in halves, through the potato ricer into the middle of the flour well.
4. Incorporate the flour into the potatoes, a little at a time, until it is just combined using a pastry scraper as needed.
5. On a floured surface, form the dough into a brick and cut into 6 even segments with the pastry cutter.
6. Roll each segment into a long snake, 1/2" wide and cut into 3/4" pieces.
7. Roll each piece over the back of a fork to shape and place on floured kitchen towel.
8. Toss the dumplings into salted, boiling water.
9. Skim each gnocchi off as they float to the top of the pot. Toss directly into sauce.


Elisabeth said...

We love gnocchi! My husband started making them from scratch about 6 years ago after seeing Emeril do it on TV. For the first couple of years we didn't have a potato ricer, but you can use a food processor (carefully) and acheive a very similar result). After 2 years I bought him a ricer for Christmas. =) He always makes a parmesan type sauce with carmelized pearl onions. SUPER rich, and delicious.

Lauren said...

Yuuuuum!! Will you share your sauce recipe? Sounds delicious!

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