I wish that I had a cuter story about gnocchi. I wish my Nona had taught me to rice the potatoes, that she had shown me just how much flour you need to bring the dough together. I wish, to be honest, I could even remember her gnocchi, but I don’t. Although I’ve heard my mom and cousin talking about how incredible they were, the only time I remember her serving us gnocchi I also remember her apologizing for not making them from scratch.
But such is memory I guess, flawed.
So instead I learnt how to make gnocchi from reading the French Laundry Cookbook, where Thomas Keller goes to great length to explain how to make them. There are many ways to make gnocchi, and many debates on how to do it best, should you use starchy russets potatoes, or waxier Yukon golds? Should there be cheese added, or just on the top? If you use another starch, a squash, or a sweet potato, is it still gnocchi?
Over the years since I first forayed into the world of homemade pastas I have tried just about every possible method and every possible ingredient, and this is the recipe I always come back to. I use Yukon golds- waxier, so that you get more control over the starch content, no cheese in the gnocchi, it’s an unnescessary flavour, and it detracts from what is darn close to perfection to begin with. And you can call it a squash gnocchi, or a sweet potatoe gnocchi, but again- if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Gnocchi are surprisingly simple to make, you roast the potatoes, push them through a potato ricer or through a seive, to get very fluffy potatoes, and then you add in a few eggs and a touch of flour and knead it together until it barely forms, and then roll it, cut it, and boil it. It’s also wonderful because it freezes brilliantly, so if you make a bigger batch you can keep some for later.
While it is simple, and just about anyone can do it, I should note that it takes a quick hand, and the first time you do it you should stick to a small batch and just practise the technique. Gluten, the protein in wheat, forms at 55C and you want the dough to come together before it cools down past that temperature, so you must work quickly and keep a cloth over your dough as you go. And always have a pot of water boiling so you can test the little pastas, and make sure the consistently is just right.
Adapted from Thomas Kellers The French Laundry Cookbook
2lbs Yukon Gold Potatoes
1- 13/4cups AP Flour plus lots more for rolling
3 Egg Yolks
2 tbsp Salt
Preheat the oven to 450F
Poke some small holes in the potatoes with a fork on every side, and then lay them on a baking sheet and bake until an inserted knife goes in and out without any resistance, about 45 minutes to an hour.
Bring a small pot of water to a boil.
As soon as the potatoes have cooled just enough to touch, put a towel over the rest of the potatoes, take one and cut it in half. Without peeling it, put it flesh side down in the ricer and press it in until no more potato comes out. Repeat with the rest. If you don’t have a potato ricer you can take a sieve and press it the potatoes through with the back of a large spoon, this is a bit more time consuming, but totally effective- I have done it many times.
When the potatoes are all riced make a well in the middle of the bowl.
Add in the eggs and a bit of the flour, and the salt. Mix until it has barely come together. If the dough is sticking to your hangs you need some more flour.
Again add in a bit more and check again, making sure your hands are clean.
One the dough is supple, but not sticky your in business.
Take about a cup of the dough out. Put a tea towel over the rest.
Flour the surface of your counter generously and roll out the reserved dough. I roll mine with both hands, and when it starts to feel a bit too long, I just cut it in half and do each hald seperately, the dough will break if you are too rough with it.
With a pastry cutter or a knife cut the dough ito small logs. You can at this point roll them to get ridges on a gnocchi board or the back of a fork but I find this to be not too important. Now put them on a ery well floured tray and shake the tray a bit so that each piece is totally covered in flour. They will stick together if you are not diligent about thi.
Now put a couple in your boiling water to test. If you haven’t added enough flour they may break apart. If they do just mix in another small handful. If they don’t keep going!
Repeat with the rest of the dough until you have lots of lovely little gnocchis all ready to go.
If you are planning on freezing some/all your gnocchi put them in the freezer as they are on the tray covered in flour. After a couple hours take them apart and put them in a freezer bag and put them back.
Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. If you are using frozen gnocchi use the biggest pot you have and do it in batches, otherwise they will bring down the water temperature too much and won’t cook properly.
Salt the water generously and put your gnocchi in!
When they rise to the top they are ready to be put in your favourite sauce and eaten with abandon.
Here I have sauteed some garlic and shallots in some olive oil, added in some pancetta, and topped it off with toasted pine nuts. The simplest and most delicious dinner!