Gnocchi is delicious. Perfect gnocchi is amazeballs.
If you’ve never tried your hand at making pasta before, either because you don’t have special equipment (which you don’t actually need for a lot of pastas), or because you think it’s too hard/time-consuming/whatever, try your hand at gnocchi. It was my first homemade pasta, and it made me feel so accomplished with so few ingredients, all of which you probably have on hand right now.
Most of my attempts with gnocchi have been quite successful, and even my worst gnocchi still came out like little pasta pillows – they just didn’t stay together as well as I’d like, and had chunks of potato still obviously in the dough. Oops. But mistakes are how we get better, right? And, no matter what, the gnocchi was always delicious, potato chunks or not.
Perfect gnocchi is an incongruous combination of potato denseness, pasta chewiness, and bread fluffiness. It seems almost impossible, especially when you’re mixing the potato and flour together at first, but it comes together in the end, almost miraculously. With a few good tips and careful measuring and kneading, you can have this beautiful combination on your dinner plate tonight.
What tips, you ask?
- Use the right ratio of potato to flour. It’s about 2:1, perhaps a little less. See #4 for details.
- Keep the potatoes aerated for as long as possible. Don’t be tempted to simply mash the potatoes with a masher or mixer – you’ll end up with a super dense dough, or an unappetizing, sticky mixture of dough and flour that never turns into a pliable dough. Most recipes will tell you to use a potato ricer, which is fine. I don’t actually own a potato ricer, so I just grate the baked potatoes with a cheese grater, and I’ve have fabulous results.
- Use warm or room temperature potatoes. Hot potatoes will be too difficult to work with, and the steam will cause too much moisture to appear in the dough, making a sticky mess. Cold potatoes won’t come together right, either, and may be too dry. You can use leftover baked potatoes (I did with this last batch), but I made sure to warm them up in the microwave for about 30 seconds first.
- Be gentle with your dough, and don’t add too much flour. If you knead this like bagel dough, it’ll be tough like bagel dough (or won’t even be dough). Too much flour = dense, dry gnocchi. And, perhaps this goes without saying, but you gotta do this by hand – no machines here, folks. Get those hands dirty!
That’s about it. I’ve used different sauces for gnocchi, but my favorites simply coat the gnocchi and allow it to shine through, like the browned butter sauce I include below. Goat cheese, corn, and arugula also makes an excellent gnocchi meal.
You can use a mixture of flours here (all purpose and whole wheat) or go all wheat - it works! Make sure you only use 16 ounces of potatoes (about 3 cups) - use any leftovers for hash browns or other small potato dishes.
you will need:
- 1 ½ – 2 lbs russet potatoes
- ¾ c flour (all purpose, whole wheat, or a combination of both)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp sea salt (don’t use coarse salt here)
- Bake the potatoes. Prick the potatoes with a fork about 10-20 times each all over the surface. If using only the oven, bake potatoes directly on the rack at 350 degrees F until soft, about 1 hour. You can also do a combination of microwave and oven cooking to shorten the oven time: place pricked potatoes on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 10 minutes. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes more until softened. Allow to cool to warm or room temperature.
- Peel warm/room temperature potatoes. Using either a potato ricer or a cheese grater, grate the potatoes. (Do not use a masher, food processor, or anything that will turn the potatoes completely into mush – you will have really dense gnocchi at best, and a dough that never comes together at worst.) Transfer 2 lbs, or about 3 cups, to a large mixing bowl, and save any leftover potato for other uses.
- Add egg to potatoes, and mix thoroughly with a fork. Sprinkle flour and salt on top of potato mixture, and mix with a fork until no dry spots of flour remain.
- Turn dough out onto a lightly floured (about 1 tbsp of flour at most) work surface and knead dough gently until the mixture holds together, is only slightly sticky, and is fairly smooth throughout, about 2-3 minutes.
- Line a large baking sheet or flexible cutting board with parchment or a Silpat, and dust with flour. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 12-inch rope, dusting the work surface as necessary with flour (but I find it’s a bit easier to roll the dough with a little bit of sticky resistance). Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces.
- To get the cool ridges: Roll each 1-inch piece down the tines of the back of a fork, rolling the piece slightly over the tip so the ridges go all over. This takes some practice to get right, and you might have ugly gnocchi. That’s okay – they’ll still taste good! Place shaped gnocchi onto the prepared baking sheet or cutting board.
- Heat a large pot of water to boiling, and add 1-2 tbsp salt. Place about half of the gnocchi into the boiling water (this is when the flexible cutting board is convenient), and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface, about 1-2 minutes. Remove gnocchi immediately with a spider or slotted spoon to a pan or bowl with desired sauce. Serve immediately.
Brown Butter Sage Sauce with Wild Onion
Use whatever herbs you want here - I’m just partial to sage. Parsley is also an excellent candidate for this sauce. Use a stainless steel pan here - a nonstick will make it hard to tell when the butter has browned.
you will need:
- 4 tbsp butter, cut into tbsp pieces (for even cooking)
- ½ c chopped wild onion, shallot, or red onion
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped sage, or 2 tsp dried sage
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- black pepper to taste
- Heat butter in a large, high-sided stainless steel skillet on medium heat, swirling frequently, until butter has melted and fat begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Add wild onion and cook for 1-2 minutes until softened. Add sage and salt, and cook for 30 seconds more. Serve with gnocchi.
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