Potato gnocci are fluffy little pillows of goodness. Too often, though, they are dense, gummy, or chewy bombs. The keys to good potato gnocci are simple: the choice of potato, the method of cooking the potato, ricing cooked potato, and the mixing of the pasta dough. If all of these are managed, then potato gnocci is pretty easy and the results are delicious.
First is the choice of potato. Russets are the right choice as they provide the right dry, fluffy texture. Some say that older potatoes that have begun to shrivel a bit are best, but I have found as long as the russet potatoes are not fresh from the ground, they will work. Avoid waxy potatoes, such as what you might use in a potato salad.
|Yes, I know you know what a potato looks like|
Next, bake the potatoes with nothing else. Wash them and place on a sheet pan. For this recipe, you need about three large russet potatoes. Poke them all over with a fork. Place in 350F conventional oven or 325F convection oven. I prefer convection for even cooking. I put the tray right in the oven without waiting for it to preheat. Set a timer for 90 minutes. At 90 minutes, remove the sheet pan from the oven and let it cool slightly on the counter.
When the potatoes are just cool enough to handle, slice them in half lengthwise and scoop out the potato from the skins. (Reserve the skins for making potato skins or twice baked potatoes.) Weigh out about 1-1/4 pounds of potato.
In a large bowl, measure 1-3/4 cups flour. I use Tipo 00 for almost everything, and I really like it for pastas like this because it hydrates well due to the fine milling. You may use all-purpose if you prefer. Add one cup of finely shredded Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Use a pastry blender to mix the cheese into the flour. Add 2t salt, black pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. Mix in. Make a well in the middle of the flour and crack two large eggs into the well. Rice the potatoes on top of the egg.
Blend with the pastry blender using a sharp up and down motion to cut the potato into the flour mixture. Do not stir or scrape. If the dough is too sticky, then sprinkle flour over top and blend it in with same technique. The dough should be very soft, and just slightly sticks to your fingers when you touch it. When the dough works into a ball, dust it with a little flour and set aside for 30-45 minutes to allow the flour to fully hydrate.
|Two essential tools: pastry blender and gnocci board|
After the rest, put down some bench flour on your countertop. You will need a pretty big area, so spread a good amount of flour. Cut the ball of dough into 4 pieces (more if you prefer). Roll each piece into a rope about ½ inch in diameter. Using a bench scraper, cut off ½ inch pieces of the rope. I hold the scraper in one hand and gently hold the piece being cut off so it does not smash down. Each piece is then a ½” cylinder. Gently roll each piece over a grooved gnocci board, a cheese grater, or the tines of a fork to make a grooved pattern. This helps the gnocci hold sauce, and they look nice!
When all of the gnocci has been prepared this way, then cook all of it at once in a large pot of boiling salted water. The gnocci will float in about 2-3 minutes and are then ready to serve.
They are excellent tossed with brown butter and fresh sage. I also enjoy gnocci with a fresh tomato sauce and a grilled Italian sausage. Today, I served it with some of my homemade Bolognese sauce and topped with more Parmigiano Reggiano.
Because of all of the steps, it might sound like a lot of work, but this is really very simple and can be done quickly. Most of the time is simply waiting for the potatoes to bake. Once you get the knack of the texture of the dough and how to shape the gnocci, it is sure to become a favorite in your home.