Damn I love gnocchi. It brings me back to 2005 when I studied abroad in Florence. I would sit at this small cafe across the street from school, and trade a couple of meal tickets for a fantastically fragrant bowl of the basil and garlic coated potato pillows. It's one of my favorite smells. I can still taste it when I close my eyes. And still, to this day, I have not tasted another pesto gnocchi recipe that has topped it.
Keeping that taste at the back of my palette, I set out to make it myself. I know what I want it to taste like, now how am I going to pull it off?
Maybe with the help of the chef. ;)
The perfect gnocchi are light, soft, delicate pillows of potato heaven. They should melt as you press one to the roof of your mouth with your tongue. And they should be simply dressed. Painted in a bright sauce with bold flavors. Mmmm... Pesto.
Making gnocchi at home is inexpensive and fairly simple. It's just potatoes, egg, and flour. It's the technique that's the difficult part. Making love to the dough. Not overworking it. Using the right tools. In my first attempt, I didn't have a potato ricer or food mill. I searched the web for some ways to make gnocchi without one. Of course, one of my all time favorite go-to food blogs, SmittenKitchen had a perfect solution for my predicament: BOX GRATER!
I re-worked the recipe with the help of my loving chef's advice. We measured out the flour by weight, so that we could accurately estimate how much flour we used - for future reference. We used one egg yolk, instead of an entire egg, to give the gnocchi some extra richness. We also attempted to make the dough the same way they do at the restaurant where David works... recipe below :)
2lbs Russet potatoes
200 grams of all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Poke the potatoes all over with a fork, and bake them on a baking sheet for 45 minutes to one hour.. Turn the potatoes over halfway through so that they bake evenly. Once you can easily poke them with a fork, remove from the oven and let cool slightly.
Peel the potatoes while they are still fairly hot (just enough to handle), then grate them over the large holes of a box grater onto a large work surface, creating a thin layer of grated potato. Add the salt and the lightly beaten egg yolk over the top. Lightly dust the entire layer of grated potato with about half of the flour, using a fine mesh strainer or sifter.
Gently mold the grated potato into a flat rectangle with your fingertips. Then, using a bench scraper, fold the dough in half. Dust with more flour. It will be loose and crumbly, but will eventually come together. Keep pressing the dough down gently with your fingertips and folding in half until the dough comes together. Dust with flour as needed so that the dough doesn't stick to your fingers or the work surface.
Once the dough has come together, form it into a rectangle and then divide it into 6 equal squares. Cover with a dry towel or dish cloth. On a lightly floured surface, roll out one of the six pieces using your fingertips into a long rope about the thickness of your thumb (if you have big thumbs, use your index finger as a guide). Cut the dough into 1 inch pieces.
Traditional gnocchi have ridges, but I still don't have that technique down. You can use the back of a fork dusted in flour to do this if you don't have a gnocchi paddle. Using your thumb, gently apply pressure to the gnocchi as you roll it in one swift motion down the fork tines. Takes a little practice.
Place the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly floured sheet pan. If you’d like to freeze them for later use, do so on this tray and once they are frozen, place them in a freezer bag. This will ensure that the gnocchi don't stick together when frozen.
To cook the gnocchi, place them into a pot of boiling salted water. After a few minutes the gnocchi will float to the top. Continue to cook for one minute then remove with a slotted spoon or strainer and set aside.
What to serve with it? Pesto? Browned butter? Tomato marinara? Or how about this healthy, quick, and easy lil' recipe. Serves 4-6.
The gnocchi were good. Strangely better when cooking them from frozen... but still nowhere near as fluffy as the ones in my memory bank.
I feel like grating the potato leaves too many larger pieces of potato in the dough without the risk of needing to over mix it. If you don't have access to a food mill or ricer, then by all means, use it, but I think the next attempt for me will have to be with a food mill (especially since David just bought one last week!).
Would the whites of the egg help to lighten the dough? Hmmm... going to try using a whole egg next time.
In my research I read that the best kind of potato to use for making gnocchi are actually Yukon Gold potatoes, but since we only had Russet on hand, I figured we'd try those. Next attempt: Yukon Gold.