I love gnocchi. Not the hard, prepackaged, rock-like nuggets you can buy in a grocery store, but the real deal. Fluffy little pillows that melt on your tongue, so light that they could nearly levitate on a humid day. They have those little indentations that hold onto just the right amount of sauce. They are delicious, and you can eat a lot of them without feeling weighed down.
They are also quite easy to make, if you know a few tricks.
For 4 servings you will need:
about 1 kg (2 pounds) starchy potatoes that have started to wrinkle
pot of boiling water
1 slightly beaten egg
about one cup of all purpose flour
sauce (in the spring time I love using homemade nettle pesto)
The lovely thing about gnocchi is that measuring is completely useless. You just have to eyeball it. The potatoes you use are important. You want to use starchy, kind of dried out potatoes. I like to use them once they start to get wrinkly. You see, the secret to good gnocchi is adding little flour, and if you use a starchy and wrinkly potato, that will be much easier.
|My friend Alexis grew these potatoes high up in the Alps. This is what 2 kgs looks like. See how nice and wrinkly they are?|
Wash the potatoes, cut them in half (or thirds if they are big), and cover with water. Boil them until they are tender, about 45 minutes, scoop them out of the water and let them drain well. When they have cooled down enough so that you won't burn yourself, peel them, and pass them through a ricer or food mill. If you don't have one, you could use a potato masher but it won't give you quite as good of a result.
|Food mill over a bowl, so that the milled potatoes don't get squished|
When you use a mill, like the one above, it finely mashes them and leaves little fluffy bits of hot potato behind. We want to do this, and while they are hot and then let them cool off a bit, so that as much water from the hot potatoes can evaporate as possible. This will mean we can add less flour later on, which leads to lighter dumplings.
|Milled potatoes left to cool|
Get a pot of well salted water boiling; you can use your potato water from before, or a fresh pot, whichever you prefer. Spread mostly cooled potatoes on a counter in a rectangle, and pour the beaten egg on top of it. Some people don't use an egg, or use only the yolk, but I like the consistency when I add a whole egg. Then sprinkle about 3/4 c of flour on top.
|Potatoes, egg, and flour|
Then I take my handy-dandy plastic scraper (I use that tool for nearly everything!) and fold the potato into the egg and flour, and then gently knead it until it comes together into a soft ball. If it is still sticky, add a little bit more flour. I usually end up using about a cup of flour, up to 1 1/4 cup. Any less, they are mushy, any more, and they are too dense. For fluffy gnocchi, try to not over knead.
Flour your work surface, and cut off a bit of dough about the size of an egg. Roll it into a 'snake' about the width of a finger, and then cut it into little dumplings about the size of small finger joints.
I usually put the gnocchi on a lightly floured plate, or they stick to the counter. Before the next part, you want to go ahead and put your sauce into a medium sized bowl.
Then I dump about 15-20 gnocchi at a time into the pot of salted, boiling water. They will sink and then gradually rise to the top. About 15 seconds after they have risen to the top of the pot, I scoop them out with a slotted spoon, put them directly into the sauce, and gently mix them in. Repeat until all your gnocchi are done!
|Don't forget this step or else the gnocchi will all stick together!|
|Homemade gnocchi with stinging nettle pesto from my field|