Saturday, November 21, 2009


Here's yet another recipe I've been wanting to make for YEARS and just never did. Until two weeks ago...

Was it worth the wait after all these years?!? Abso-freaking-lutely.

So what is gnocchi? It's basically a potato pasta. Atkins and South Beach would be very, VERY angry at me for making this. But Atkins and South Beach can suck it. Gnocchi is freaking delicious and every bite is like a little pillow of softness in your mouth.

Trader Joe's sells a pretty delicious vacuum-sealed version I buy, but I'd always wondered how much better it would be from scratch. Now I know and I don't think I'll ever go back. And it's really not that hard to make!

Although the day I made the gnocchi it *was* a pretty crazy day. But I brought it upon myself because I decided to try not just one, but TWO gnocchi recipes. One from Cooks Illustrated and one from Ladia's Italy (a PBS show from a real Italian in which she cooks... you guessed it, Italian foods!) I mean we ARE making pasta here folks. So a competition it became: which recipe would yield the better gnocchi?? You all know how much I like my throwdowns, so this time it was a gnocchi throwdown.

(ding, ding, DING!)

In one corner we had the Cooks Illustrated recipe (in which you mixed the potatoes + manchego cheese + a little bit of flour). In the other corner we had Lidia's Italy recipe (in which you mixed the potatoes + eggs + flour). As you'll notice, the biggest difference was eggs, or the lack-there-of. And oh boy what a difference it made...

Sorry to spoil the ending, but I'm just gonna say it right now: for the first time ever Cooks Illustrated has given me a giant DUD recipe. It wasn't BAD, but it wasn't GNOCCHI. It tasted like little balls of mashed potatoes. Gnocchi isn't supposed to be mushy, it's supposed to have a soft little bite to it, like a dumpling. And Lidia's gnocchi were just that.

You can even see it in this picture if you look closely enough. (I prepared the gnocchi with a brown butter sauce with sage. The only good thing about the Cooks Illustrated recipe was this sauce. I promise to write it up sometime soon...)

On the left is the Cooks Illustrated recipe, Lidia's Italy on the right. The CI gnocchi look as though they are disintegrating, whereas Lidia's gnocchi are nicely holding their shape. I won't even bother giving you the Cooks Illustrated recipe (or photos I took of the process) because it's seriously not worth it.

Soooo, you ready to make your own gnocchi?!? Lots of pictures to follow the very easy process.
(Disclaimer: This is my first time making any kind of pasta from scratch. So although it was delicious, I still haven't made it enough times to truly know what works/what doesn't/what I should improve upon. But I have to say, it seems like a pretty forging recipe, so there's no way to really mess it up.)

OK, first thing you have to do is cook your potatoes. Lidia's recipe calls for boiling the potatoes, but most others I've seen (like this one at Smitten Kitchen) has you bake them. I don't think it really matters recipe-wise. Just cook the damn things, but try not to overcook them.

After they're cooked, you need to break them up without turning them into total mush. You can use a potato ricer or a food mill (thanks to Liz for letting me borrow hers!), which basically works like a grater.

Place the roughly chopped potatoes in the food mill and just crank away.

It ends up extruding the potatoes and ensuring a nice, smooth "paste" like texture.

Don't have a food mill or ricer?!? Fear not! Smitten Kitchen suggests using a box grater and grating the cooked potatoes. I'm definitely going to do that next time.

At this point the recipe calls for drying the potatoes on a baking sheet (up to 3 hours). I let them sit for a few hours but that's not really necessary; the potatoes cooled quite quickly.

So you'll probably find different versions of gnocchi recipes out there. This one calls for two eggs, one from Smitten Kitchen calls only for one. And there's different ways to mix the dough too. I'll probably give SK's recipe a shot next time I make gnocchi (yet ANOTHER gnocchi throwdown) but I'll be showing you Lidia's recipe and technique today.

As a warning: this method of mixing the dough is messy. Feel free to hunt around the internets for less messy preparations. You'll get your hands less dirty, but I can basically guarantee they won't be nearly as much fun to prepare!

Make a little "volcano" with the shredded potatoes and place the beaten eggs in the middle.

Now add the flour on top.

Whereda eggs go?

Now, just mix it all together (trying to keep the eggs from going all over the place). Sorry, no pictures of the process, my hands were a bit messy.

Feel free to add a little less/more flour, depending on the dough. You want it to come together and lose most of its stickiness. But be very generous with the flour on your working surface. Sprinkle everything to keep the dough from sticking.

Once the dough comes together you want to knead it for a few minutes. The texture feels very much like bread dough (I haven't made dough many times before, but it does have an elasticity that dough has). Here's me kneading the dough (with one hand since I was filming with the other) so you can see what the texture/consistency is like. Smacking it is not necessary, but fun nonetheless (that's what she said?!?)

To shape the gnocchi, cut the finished dough into 3 or 4 pieces (making sure to cover what you're not using with a cloth to prevent it from drying). On a well floured surface, roll one piece under your hands into a thick cylinder and gradually stretch it to long rope, about 2/3-inch thick.

Rollin', rollin', rollin' (Check out my reflection in my bowl- I just noticed it!)

Perfectly long rope...

...2/3" thick.

With a sharp knife slice the rope in 1/2" pieces.

At this point you're basically done, but if you want to make them look like cute little gnocchi (which typically have these little ridges on them), use the back of a fork and press/roll the gnocchi down the tines to make an impression. Flour the fork if the dough is sticking.

It doesn't take long to go through all the pieces.

Lookie how cute!!

Place your pieces on a floured baking sheet (and cover with towel while you work on the rest of the gnocchi)

And that's it- you're done!

At this point you can do one of two things:
1) Cook all the gnocchi ASAP. (Drop in batches in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until they pop to the surface. Yes, it's that easy!)

2) Store the gnocchi. To do this, place the baking sheet in the freezer for 30-60 minutes. Once they are individually frozen, place the gnocchi in a freezer bag. And whenever you want some gnocchi for dinner, just throw some frozen gnocchi into boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes until they pop to the surface. Don't thaw the frozen gnocchi, just cook them as you would fresh.

Well there you have it folks- homemade gnocchi. They were AMAZINGLY delicious in a simple butter sage sauce (my photo from before to remind you of the finished product).

Like I said, I'll be posting that prepared recipe soon enough. And I've got two giant bags of frozen gnocchi sitting in my freezer just WAITING for me to try out different recipes- so if you have any ideas- I'll gladly take them.


You may want to check out Smitten Kitchen's gnocchi blog entry for a slightly different version of this recipe and tips/recipe ideas. Next time I'm gonna try out her recipe. I absolutely love her blog!

Gnocchi dough, from Lidia's Italy

With all dishes using potato dough, keep several time factors in mind to get the best results. First, allow the cooked potatoes to air-dry thoroughly before you mix the dough-2 hours or even longer if possible. The drier the potatoes the lighter the dough will be when cooked. Second, because potato dough is best when freshly mixed and cannot sit around, plan to shape the dough into gnocchi and cook them right away (or freeze them). If you are making stuffed gnocchi or offelle, have your filling ingredients ready when you mix the dough.

Makes about 1.5 pounds dough, enough for 6 servings of gnocchi in different shapes

1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (all the same size)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, beaten well
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for working with the dough

Recommended equipment:
· A potato ricer or vegetable mill with medium disk

Put the potatoes, whole and skin-on, in a large pot with cold water covering them by at least 2-inches. Bring to a steady boil and cook just until they are easily pierced with a fork or sharp knife blade-don’t overcook. (Jackie's note: you could also bake them in the oven)

Lift potatoes from the water and let them drain briefly. Peel and press through the ricer or food mill as soon as you can, while they’re still very hot, so their moisture will evaporate. (Jackie's note: you can also use a cheese grater for this step.) Spread the potatoes in a thin layer on a baking sheet or tray, sprinkle the salt all over and let them cool and dry for at least 20 minutes, preferably 2 to 3 hours.

To mix the dough, pile the dried potatoes in a large loose mound on a board or marble work surface. Pour the beaten eggs over them then sprinkle 1 cup of the flour on top. Using your hands, work in the eggs, mixing and moistening the flour and potatoes. Gather into a single mass and knead for several minutes, scraping in sticky bits from the board and your hands. Incorporate additional flour in small amounts, only as needed, until the dough is smooth, soft and only slightly sticky. Avoid adding too much flour which will make the gnocchi heavy and dry. Cover the dough with a towel and form into gnocchi or offelle as soon as possible.

To shape traditional gnocchi, cut the finished dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Dust the work surface and your hands with flour. Roll one piece under your hands into a thick cylinder and gradually stretch it to long rope, about 2/3-inch thick. With a sharp knife or dough cutter, slice the rope, crosswise, into ½-inch lengths; sprinkle pieces with flour.

Hold a dinner fork, tines downward at an angle to your work surface. Place one of the cut sides of a piece of dough against the tines. With your lightly floured thumb. press into the dough on the other cut side and at the same time push it off the end of the fork onto a floured board. It will be hollow and curved where you pressed it and ridged on the side that rolled off the fork. Press and roll the other cut pieces into gnocchi, dust them with flour and set in a single layer on a floured tray, not touching.

Small gnocchi should be cooked (or frozen) as soon as they are all shaped.


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