I’ve always struggled with gnocchi and it bothers me. In theory, it should be one of my favorite things to eat. It’s a carbtastrophy of starchy-goodness that serves as a vessel for Italian gravies, pestos, and creamy sauces. It’s a potato-centric blank slate, so why have I never really fallen in love with a plate of gnocchi? I love potatoes. I love pasta. Why does gnocchi make me feel nothing? I resolved to remedy the confusion the only way I knew how—making my own damn gnocchi.
Here’s what you need:
2 scant lbs of russet potatoes 1 egg 1 scant cup AP flour
Slice the potatoes in half width-wise, then throw them in a pot of salted water over the stove. Boil until cooked through.
Once they’re totally cooked, remove them from the water with a slotted spoon (reserving the water) and put them through a potato ricer. If you don’t have a ricer, peel the potatoes beforehand and mash them with a fork. The hotter they are when you process them, the fluffier the potatoes will be so keep each piece in the hot water until you’re ready. After you’ve processed the potatoes, let them cool.
Once the potatoes are cool, arrange them in a pile on the cutting board. Lightly beat one egg and and drizzle it over the potatoes. Then, dust about 3/4 of the flour on top.
Mix the potato, egg, and flour together with a spatula or a dough scraper by gently folding it onto itself. It will be crumbly at first and will desperately try to fall on the floor, so work patiently while it starts to come together. If it’s too sticky, add some of the reserved flour. I ended up using the entire extra 1/4 cup. Once the dough is soft and not sticking to everything in sight, you’re ready to shape the gnocchi.
First, the dough into 8 equal chunks and roll each portion into a log about 1/2 inch thick. Then, cut the log in half and in half again until you have the size you want. Mine were about 3/4 inch.
This next part is optional, but I highly recommend it. To give the gnocchi a traditional shape (and to help them grab more sauce) place a gnocchi on your thumb and gently press the pasta with a fork. Like so:
To cook the gnocchi, bring your potato water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in the water 10-15 at a time. They’re done when the float to the surface. Scoop them out with a spider and set them aside.
Now, do your potato pasta dance. Because you, my friend, have just made gnocchi.
I’ll be honest with you. At this point, I was slightly disappointed. I tasted them, and they had very little flavor. I know what you’re thinking. Michelle, you’re eating unseasoned potato balls without any sauce, what the hell did you expect? I expected to cry limoncello tears and become inhabited by the Edeisa the Roman goddess of food, goddammit. Truth is, next time I’m gonna add a little salt to the potatoes after ricing them. I do not have a sauce recipe for you and I’m sorry. In all honestly we winged it with our tomato sauce and I simply wasn’t measuring or making any notes. The excellent Jack Goldenberg of Hood Rich Farms sold us some gorgeous yellow and red tomato gems, and we basically just threw them in the Vitamix and played with them until it tasted good. A few fresh tomato sauce tips:
- Always add sugar. Tomatoes are very acidic and they need sweetness to balance them out. You don’t need to use table sugar, but you do need to use something.
- The sweeter your tomatoes, the less cooking they need. This may seem obvious, but I was so in love with these tomatoes that at first I didn’t want to cook them at all. We tried the sauce raw, and while it was fine it didn’t taste balanced. Ultimately I ended up simmering the sauce on the stove for about 10 minutes, and that brought everything together. If your tomatoes aren’t quite masterpieces of nature, you may need to cook them longer. Which leads us to:
- If they’re not great raw, don’t do a fresh sauce. Roast ’em first and cook them down a lot or start with high-quality whole canned tomatoes.
- When in doubt, tomato paste. If your fresh tomato sauce just isn’t working for you, a little tomato paste (or tomato powder—my most recent obsession) can balance it out.
- Taste as you go and quit while you’re ahead. Cooking without a recipe can be a lot of fun, but the excitement of making something awesome even better can lead to overcooked, over-seasoned, overly-complicated food. Taste everything and keep it simple.
An even quicker option? Brown up some butter with sage and fry the gnocchi up in a hot pan.