Making gnocchi has been on my laundry list of things to make, but I never made it because I didn’t have a ricer. Do you need a ricer to make gnocchi? Nope. But to get the fluffy light gnocchi that everyone dreams of, a ricer is strongly recommended.
Once I got my ricer, I put on my game face to make some gnocchi. The result was leaps and bounds better than any store-bought. It’s worth the trouble to make and to be honest, it wasn’t difficult. Set aside some time on the weekend and make some. If you want to make enough to freeze for future use, you’ll need a few hours.
You can either boil or bake the potatoes. I boiled mine, but some prefer to bake them so there isn’t any extra moisture added). Once done, you wait until you can handle peeling it (but don’t wait too long because they still need to be hot) and them put them in the ricer. Afterwards, put the riced potatoes in the fridge. This will help in forming them.
The trick here is the amount of flour you’re using. I found that more flour made for a more dense dumpling. A lot of recipes advise against over-kneading to avoid something gluey, but don’t be too afraid because you don’t want it falling apart in the water. Make sure you work it enough so that when you hold a clump of dough it doesn’t crumble.
1 pound (450 g) large yellow potatoes
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons (6 g) thinly sliced chives (optional)
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
Ground white pepper to taste
1/4 pound (115 g) unbleached all-purpose flour, Italian 00 flour, or Korean flour (if using 00 or Korean flour, increase the amount to 5 ounces, or 140 g), plus extra for rolling
Yield: about 1 pound (450 g), serves 4 to 6
1. Steam the potatoes in their skins, or boil them in salted water until tender but not mushy, about 40 minutes. (Don’t peel the potatoes before boiling, as they will absorb too much water.) Drain well and cool them just long enough to be able to handle them, then peel the potatoes and put them through a potato ricer or food mill while still hot. Chill the potatoes in the refrigerator. (By chilling the potatoes, you will need less flour to make a dough firm enough to hold its shape when cooked.)
2. In a large bowl or on a wooden work surface, combine the potatoes with the egg yolk, chives, salt and white pepper.
3. Form the potato mixture into a ring and place the flour in the middle. Gently, using only your fingertips while patting and pinching, mix the flour into the potato mix to make a fairly firm mass that doesn’t stick to your fingers.
4. Work until just combined, as if you were making a pastry dough. The object here is to use the minimum amount of flour and to develop its gluten only enough to stick the whole thing together. Rough handling will result in tough, gluey gnocchi.
Tip: Before shaping all the gnocchi, it’s a good idea to test 1 or 2 to make sure the dough is firm enough to hold its shape when cooked. Try cooking a couple in salted boiling water. If they fall apart, which usually happens toward the end of the cooking time, gently pat in an ounce or so (30 g or so) of flour.
5. Throw a little flour onto your work surface and gently roll the dough into a thick sausage shape.
6. Using a bench scraper, or a knife with a flat blade, divide the dough into 6 portions.
7. Start rolling 1 portion at a time into a “snake” starting from the center. Use an up-and-down motion while moving your hands towards the outside.
8. Roll each snake until it is about the thickness of your index finger and relatively uniform in diameter.
9. Dust each rope with flour and then roll again to even out the snakes.
10. Cut the dough into pillow-shaped pieces 1/2 to 34 inch (1 to 2 cm) long to make individual gnocchi.
To Cook Potato Gnocchi
1. Bring salted water to a boil in a wide, shallow pot. Add the gnocchi, reduce heat to a light rolling boil, and cook the gnocchi until they float to the top. Cook 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the gnocchi are cooked through but still firm.
2. Skim them from the water using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon. These gnocchi are too fragile to drain in a colander.
3. Toss gently with melted butter and grated cheese or other sauce, such a fresh tomato and shredded basil with small cubes of fresh mozzarella, and serve immediately.
Notes: If desired, dust each piece lightly with flour and roll up from the cut edge in a C shape along the outside tines of a dinner fork to form ridged gnocchi. Or, roll up on a grater using the cross-cut side. Or, roll up on a ridged wooden gnocchi or garganelli board. Set aside on a board dusted lightly with semolina or cornmeal without touching.
It is best to cook the gnocchi as soon as they are formed, as they will become sticky and soft as the flour is absorbed into the dough.
Nervous Chef Tip: You can freeze the gnocchi to cook at a later date. Freeze the pasta on a baking sheet until fully frozen and place them in a bag. No need to defrost before you cook, just add a minute or so to cooking time.
Excerpted from Making Artisan Pasta by Aliza Green (Quarry Books)