I married an Italian... with many relatives that live nearby... and for that I am eternally thankful. Gnocchi are small light bites of pillowy goodness - potato dumplings loaded with cheese and spicy meat sauce. We bought the packaged ones from the store once, but they are nothing like Grandma's. She, in her unique grumpy-grandma style, refused to teach us how to make it like she learned in Italy. So, we decided to try it on our own and give her a run for her money.
This is one of those "by feel" recipes that I normally avoid, but after several successful productions (with rave reviews from even the Italians) I am happy to say that we can add this to our cookbook.
- 3 large russet potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 1 egg
- a generous pinch of salt
- flour as needed (probably up to 2 cups)
The most important step of the recipe is this: you must put the potatoes through a potato ricer. When they're cool enough to handle and peel, take portions of the hot potatoes and squish them through. This will make the finished gnocchi light and fluffy.
Add the salt, egg, and mix briefly together. Add most of the flour and mix, again briefly. Do not mix this dough for long - it should come together but not be completely homogeneous. Add flour until the dough (still warm!) is pliable and doesn't completely stick to your hands. Essentially it has to be enough like a pasta dough that you can roll it out into long snakes. You want to add the minimum amount of flour necessary, as the finished product will be more dense if there is more flour in it.
Cut the snakes into small pieces and squish halfway with a fork (I find the dough should be sticky enough that it would cling to the fork in an annoying way... so flour the fork to keep this from driving you crazy). This creates grooves for the pasta sauce and cheese to cling to. Grandma is very good at quickly whipping them off the fork... we will need a lot more practice at this.
Prep a pot of boiling water, well salted, with a bit of oil to keep them from sticking. Cook them like pierogies - drop several into the water, remove right away once they float to the top (this will be 10-30 seconds or so). Taste to confirm that the dumpling is light and cooked fully through.
Load with cheese - parmesan, friulano, romano - anything white and sharp and tasty. Add your favourite sauce - we usually take something that's good from a jar or can and add sauteed onions, peppers, and pieces of Italian sausage from a local butcher.
Enjoy with a salad and ciabatta bread.