Nothing reminds me more of my childhood than gnocchi (pronounced ‘nyokie’) as my Mom and I spent many hours making pounds of gnocchi for Sunday dinners. We would usually make enough gnocchi to feast on with other large Italian families so we rolled, cut, and shaped thousands of gnocchi at a time. One thing my Mom taught through all of those gnocchi-making Saturdays is that good things are worth the extra effort. The whole time I was shaping those gnocchi, I would be dreaming of little dumplings floating in a bowl of sauce covered with Parmesan cheese! Now as I make them along with the help of all three of my teenagers, I also dream of the enjoyment we as a family will get from sharing a simple yet delicious meal together. A decent meal shared with family and or friends is a wonderful gift from God! The recipe I am sharing with you is my own derived from my Mother’s Grandmother, Nona Cornaccio, although I had to break it down a bit (hers called for 8 pounds of potatoes!),and I also needed an egg to help soften the dough.
This recipe will feed 6 as a first course generously!
3 large or 6 smaller baking (Idaho Russet) potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 large whole egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp. fresh black pepper
a grating of fresh nutmeg
1 and 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, or as needed
Pierce the cleaned and dried potatoes and bake at 350 for about an hour (soft when pierced) The hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, the lighter the gnocchi will be. Working quickly and protecting the hand that holds the potatoes with a folded kitchen towel cut the potatoes in half or thirds to fit in mill or ricer OR peel and mash with a masher. Press the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer a food mill and then allow the potatoes to cool completely. If you use a ricer or mill you don’t even have to peel!
In a small bowl, beat the egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Gather the cold potatoes into a mound and form a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well.
Knead the potato and egg mixtures together with both hands, gradually adding the flour, about 1 1/2 cups, to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. It should take no longer than 3 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture; remember, the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in fridge for 20 minutes or until ready to roll and cut gnocchi.
Form 4 balls of dough. Or, if you are just starting out make 8 small balls. Roll each of these into a rope about the thickness of your thumb.
Cut each rope into 1/2 inch pieces.
Roll each piece into a ball and form a gnocchi by rolling it down the back end of a fork.
Repeat the whole process with the remaining pieces of dough. Place each piece onto a floured cloth and allow to dry out slightly.
To cook gnocchi:
Bring six quarts of salted water to a vigorous boil in a large pot over high heat. Drop about some gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 -2 minutes after they rise to the surface.
Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon of skimmer, draining them well, and transfer to an oven proof pan of sauce and keep in the oven on warm until ready to eat.
To freeze gnocchi:
lay them out not touching on a large cookie sheet and freeze for 30 minutes than transfer to a large baggie and return to freezer. You will need to do this in batches. Cook as usual straight from the freezer.
Serve with some chopped fresh basil and some Parmesan cheese!
Ann Minard is our new food columnist. She grew up in a first-generation, Italian-American family spending a large part of her childhood in the kitchen! She loves, loves, loves to cook for her family and friends! If you love this recipe and do not want to wait for the next issue of Harlots’ Sauce to get another of her delicious recipes, visit her cooking blog, La Buona Cucina