I made these gnocchi in butter and basil sauce last Friday – but if you read my last post, you’ll understand the delay in publishing. Sigh… I like to have at least one bag of gnocchi in the freezer for a quick meal, or a dessert – yes – butter, brown sugar and some quickly pan sautéed blueberries are an amazing combination. That’s the thing – gnocchi are so versatile: you pan fry them with just some butter and basil like I did here, or toss them in marinara sauce and sprinkle with parmesan for a more substantial meal. You can also served them tossed in pesto.
This is gnocchi in their simplest form – potatoes and flour. The original recipe I worked from specifies adding an egg only as an option if they don’t hold up during boiling – but it’s a safe bet to include one on the onset – you don’t want to find your gnocchi collapsing after making 200 of them! That would suck.
The dough is very forgiving, and the key is to add just enough flour to hold the gnocchi together without them falling apart in the boiling water. The balance of flour to potato, as well as the type of potato, is important – the essential characteristic of gnocchi is that they are fluffy and light – never tough and rubbery. As in those ready made dried gnocchi you buy in the Italian aisle…yuck.
This recipe calls for boiling potatoes – medium size round red or white potatoes that are suitable for boiling, as well as roasting or frying. They are firm textured and keep their shape well when boiled. The skin of this potato is thin, waxy, moist, and less starchy than other potatoes. A good example is the Yukon Gold variety.
Don’t be intimidated by making multitudes of these -to make the gnocchi you simply roll the ready dough into a log a little less than 1.5 inches in diameter. Use a sharp knife to slice the log into individual pieces, then press with a fork. That last step is important, because the little indents will help sauce adhere to the gnocchi. There are more complicated techniques of doing the same thing, and even a specialized gnocchi board that I would have no clue how to use… For now I’d just like to eat, not split hairs…
I totally recommend making a big batch and freezing some gnocchi – you’ll be glad to find them in the freezer later! And hey, do you like dumplings in general? (because who doesn’t) Check out my wonton soup recipe from last year That thing is so hot it’s basically pinning itself 🙂
- 1½ pounds boiling potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
- 1½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 egg, or 2 egg whites
- ½ stick of butter
- handful of basil leaves, torn
- salt and pepper to taste
- Steam the potatoes until tender. You can also boil them if you don't have a steamer, but if you do, boil them whole, and leave the peels on so that they don't absorb a lot of water. Too much water will make the gnocchi rubbery. Take off the peels when cool enough to handle.
- Mash the potatoes until smooth and no lumps remain. Ideally, use a food mill or a potato ricer. Don't put the potatoes in a food processor as this will make them gluey!
- Lightly flour a work surface and add the mashed potatoes, egg, or 2 egg whites, and about half of the flour. Start kneading until the dough begins to hold together, add a bit of flour at a time until the dough is smooth, but no longer sticky. Shape the dough into a ball, and cut in half.
- Roll out the one half of the dough into a cylinder about 1 inch in diameter. Using a sharp knife, cut the cylinder into individual piece into a long cylinder about 1 inch in diameter. Then cut each cylinder into individual pieces about ¾ inch in length. Press each gnocchi with a fork to leave an imprint. Do the same to the other half of the dough.
- At this point, you can freeze an unused batch - make sure to freeze individually first on a large sheet, and once frozen, transfer to freezer bags.
- Drop the gnocchi into a large pot of boiling salted water. In a short time, they will start rising to the surface. Let them cook for about 10 seconds, then retrieve with a colander scoop, or a large slotted spoon.
- Cool the gnocchi, and let them dry out a bit. Melt butter in a non stick pan and fry the gnocchi until lightly golden and crisp * Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.
- * This is my preferred method, as opposed to just turning the boiled gnocchi in some melted butter and serving. It does take extra some patience if you are hungry! Don't try to pan brown the gnocchi if they're still hot and moist - they will just stick to the pan.
Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking