Gnocchi

With the abrupt change in weather and frigid winds blowing heaps of snow around outside, there couldn’t be a more appropriate time to hole up indoors and make a batch of gnocchi (pronounced nyoh-kee). These fluffy pasta dumplings are of Tuscan Italian origin. The first written reference to the pastas, whose literal meaning is “lumps,” dates back to the 14th century; they were, as per Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking, made with breadcrumbs and flour before the arrival of the potato in Italy. Ingredient variations can differ greatly: ricotta, spinach, and pumpkin all make a fine base for gnocchi. The following recipe uses potatoes.

The components are simple and affordable: potatoes, flour, egg yolks, and salt. Unlike other pasta recipes, gnocchi require very little in the kitchen tool department — though a potato ricer is a useful aid. Allot two hours for preparation (including baking time for the potatoes), and by all means, remember patience — the end result will be worth the time. These pillows of pasta pair nicely with a classic pesto, rich tomato sauce, or freshly grated parmesan and butter. Or, simply saute them in a splash of olive oil until they’re a light golden brown and then add a pat of butter.

Gnocchi

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

A few tips to consider:

  1. Use Idaho or Russet potatoes. (They are drier and you don’t want much moisture in your dough.) Old potatoes are traditionally preferred over newer potatoes, for their lower water and higher starch content.
  2. Be careful of over kneading dough.
  3. Don’t let gnocchi sit too long before cooking. (Freeze immediately after cutting if you plan to use later.)
  4. Boil water rapidly before dropping them in.

2 lbs potatoes
1 ¼ c all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp salt

  1. Bake potatoes at 350ºF for one hour (add 15 minutes if large).
  2. Remove, split, and spoon out flesh.
  3. Press through potato ricer, or press the bottom of a fork into the potatoes to break them apart. The goal is a fluffy heap of potatoes.
  4. Make a small hole in the center. Add ½ cup flour, followed by egg yolks.
  5. Add another ½ cup flour and salt.
  6. Cut up and mix using a dough scraper or a rubber spatula (again, not overworking the dough). Add flour as needed to prevent stickiness.
  7. Mound dough into ball.
  8. Pull off a section. Roll out onto lightly floured space, making a long rope, until dough is ½- to 1-inch thick.
  9. Using a sharp knife, cut ½-inch pieces off dough rope and set aside (dip the knife in flour as needed and cut with confidence – edges of gnocchi should be clean). Continue until you’ve used all of the dough.

    Gnocchi

    Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

  10. Roll pieces into small balls. Using your thumb, press them lightly into a fork, creating little rows of small indentations. (If you’re feeling lazy, please note that I found this didn’t seem necessary — perhaps it’s more for appearances. You can also just use chopped gnocchi.)
  11. If you aren’t going to consume your gnocchi immediately, line baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly flour. Position gnocchi in rows and freeze. Once they’ve solidified in freezer, place in airtight bag. They will keep for several weeks in the freezer. When you plan to use, simply follow the next step.
  12. Boil a large pot of lightly salted water. Drop gnocchi in, in groups of 25 at a time.
  13. Once they float, they’re done. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in large bowl of ice water. Let them cool for a few minutes, remove from water, and dry on kitchen towel.
Gnocchi

Alyssa Vance / Heavy Table

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5 Comments

  1. Great article!

    I recently took a cooking class in Italy which covered gnocchi, and I have two videos of the instructor demonstrating how to roll gnocchi on a fork to give it its signature look — which I thought would be helpful and fun to post:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xfwl2YgFHhE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VHPXnjCeMs4

    I also have a few close-up pics of our gnocchi at various stages of development:

    http://bit.ly/gnocchi1
    http://bit.ly/gnocchi2
    http://bit.ly/gnocchi3
    http://bit.ly/gnocchi4

    The one difference that I noted is that we were instructed to use a slightly more waxy potato — specifically a Yukon Gold — and to boil them, rather than bake them. I googled around and it seems that there is some disagreement on using Russets vs. Yukon Gold. Anyway, the ones we made with Yukon Gold were extremely light and fluffy, and did not fall apart. I think the key is to not over-boil them.

  2. Took Chris’ advice & picked up Yukon Golds & boiled them whole first. Kind of a a wild time in the kitchen tonight. Had fun.

    Each time I’ve made store bought gnocchi I sauteed them instead of boiling them. Wasn’t sure if par-boiling them was necessary, but that’s what I did & I didn’t get something quite right (could have been that I didn’t transfer them to ice water afterwards).

    Tried sauteing them but they didn’t hold up. I had some scraps left over that didn’t end up in the pot so I sauteed those & they turned out good.

    I prolly need to give gnocchi another couple times in the kitchen before I’d invite people over & serve these with confidence. The art here is getting them airy & light enough. Like a good challenge, though! Thanks Heavy Table.

  3. constanza 12/13/2009 Reply

    Ive done the baked potatoe way,, but I have often used my family’s tradition especially after the holidays when theres a big bowl of leftover mashed potatoes.
    the next day I take about 2 cups of the mashed leftovers(no garlic in them) do the well and add one whole egg and one cup of flour to kneed .add more flour as needed-if the the gnocchi dough feels too sticky add just a little more flour.. but not too much as to be too dry..roll them cut them set them on a towel(not touching)dust with a touch of flour cover with another cloth towel while you make the sauce.. then boil them take them out with slotted spoon in batches(no towel drying necessary) add a little sauce to each batch then put in a warm oven and continue this process till all are done. bon appitito

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