Gnocchi is one of those strange, mysterious foods that people think is incredibly technically difficult. It’s really, truly not. It takes a little time and a few attempts to get it perfect but once you can start telling people you make your own gnocchi you may as well have a four-year degree from Le Courdon Bleu. Half the battle is just learning how to pronounce it right.
I’ve tried lots of different methods and Michael Chiarello, of course, has developed my favorite. There are only a handful of ingredients involved and one of them is potatoes – have you ever met something made with a potato that wasn’t at the very least better than something not made with potatoes? Gnocchi is actually exponentially easier than making regular pasta. Go figure.
A few notes on gnocchi. First of all, there are dozens of really delicious, totally passable prepared gnocchi options. I find that I like dried better than frozen, but it depends on the brand. Second of all, I like gnocchi best with some sort of tomato sauce or a pesto but if I’m feeling particularly “Over the Tuscan Sun” I’ll simply add olive oil, salt, and pepper. Third and most importantly, the best gnocchi tip I ever learned was from a guy at my local Italian grocery store. He told me once the gnocchi’s done boiling to drain it, then put it back in the hot pot with a tablespoon or two of butter. Brown gnocchi is good gnocchi, my friends.
Michael’s recipe with a few of my adaptations is below along with some helpful pictures. I’m a visual learner, you see. I highly encourage you to try this one, even if it seems intimidating. Worst case scenario, you’ve got some (admittedly weird) mashed potatoes.
with SWEET SAUSAGE TOMATO SAUCE
(original gnocchi recipe courtesy of Michael Chiarello)
Ingredients For the Gnocchi:
1 lb. (about 3 large) Russet potatoes, washed clean
3 large egg yolks
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (optional)
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt, preferably Kosher
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, and maybe a little extra
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sprinkle some kosher salt on a baking sheet and place the potatoes on top – the salt will help air circulate. Bake in the oven for an hour or so, until the potatoes are very tender. Remove from the baking sheet and allow to cool completely, about 30 minutes.
***Note: If you don’t have the patience for all this, microwave your potatoes on high for between 5 and 10 minutes on a plate, pricking them with a fork first. You’ll still have to let them cool.
2. Once cooled, peel the skin off the potatoes with your hands or use a knife. Using the largest holes on a box grater, grate the potato flesh until you have about 2 cups. Mound the potato on a work surface and make a well in the middle where you’ll put the egg yolks, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Meanwhile, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
3. Mix the potatoes into the other ingredients with your hands until just combined. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the flour on top of the mixture then using just your knuckles or fingertips, press into the potatoes. Once they’ve absorbed some of the flour, start folding the mixture on top of itself to combine. Once it’s wet again, sprinkle a little more flour on and repeat the process. It’s important NOT to knead the dough or it will become tough – think of it as the difference in folding egg whites into batter and mixing them in with a whisk.
4. Keep up the process until your dough isn’t wet or dry – you can always add more flour or a bit of water to even things out. It should be “firm but yielding”…if you poke it with your finger you should indent the dough but it should have a little resistance. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface then roll out 1/4 of the dough with your hands until you’ve made a 1/2” diameter log. If your dough’s the wrong consistency, you’ll notice it here. Make sure your log is floured well enough so the dough won’t stick to itself.
5. Using a metal spatula or sharp knife, cut the log into small rectangles, about 1″ long. Repeat this process until you’ve got a whole plate full of gnocchi. If you wish, use a fork to press ridges into the gnocchi so it will “catch” the sauce better. This is totally optional – they’ll taste just as good if left smooth. (Note: Husband may have forked these guys a little too flat accidentally. You want them plump.)
6. Drop the gnocchi all at once into the boiling water. They won’t take long – only about 5 minutes – and you know they’re done when they all start rising to the top. Drain the gnocchi in a collander and melt about 2 tbsp. of butter over medium-high heat in the pot. Once melted, add back in your gnocchi and toss the pot every few seconds until they’re browned, only about 3-4 minutes.
7. Add in whatever sauce you’re using (you should put the sauce on to heat/cook before you begin the gnocchi-making process) and toss. Avoid stirring with a spoon if possible so you won’t break up the gnocchi.
Serve hot with a side salad. Don’t forget to tell everyone it’s homemade.
***For this gnocchi I “made” a sausage tomato sauce. I simply browned 1/2 lb. of sweet Italian sausage in a saucepan and (without draining) added 1 (24oz.) can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes, a handful of diced grape tomatoes, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tbsp. chopped parsley, and 2 cloves of chopped garlic. I threw in some salt and pepper, too. I put the sauce together as the potatoes baked and let it simmer while the rest of the operation went down.