Culinary School: How to Make Gnocchi
A few weeks ago I asked you guys if you would be interested in posts revolved around what I’m learning in culinary school. Pretty much everyone who responded said yes! So I figured I’d start with a dish we learned to create from my favorite cuisine – Italian. Italian food is comfort food at its best – simple, fresh, rustic. It’s not as intimidating as French cuisine but just as tasty.
In case you were wondering, gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings. They taste good with just about any type of sauce, whether it be thick tomato or simple browned butter sauce. They are that kind of warm, stick-to-your-ribs meal that leaves you feeling satisfied. They’re available pre-packaged in the frozen section of some grocery stores but are SO much better homemade. They’re also surprisingly easy.
Place potatoes in a pot and cover with water. Boil for about 30 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender enough that a fork or knife enters with no resistance. Drain and let cool slightly (at this point you can play Hot Potato!).
Remove the skin using whatever works – your fingers, a knife, a spoon, a towel. Just get those skins off and throw them away.
Now comes one (out of two) important parts of the recipe, mashing the potatoes. I LOVE to use a ricer because it’s easy and produces perfectly soft and light mashed potatoes with no lumps. If you don’t have a ricer, go buy one. Seriously. If for some reason you can’t get your hands on a ricer, go ahead and use a food mill, or even a potato masher – the gnocchi might be a little more dense but it will still taste fabulous. **A reader offered a fabulous tip, use a box grater to “mash” the cooked potatoes for a light, fluffy constancy.
Add the nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste. When I say to taste, I mean that literally. Taste the seasoned potatoes to make sure they’re good. Use more salt than you think. Mix in the egg.
Now comes the second important part of the recipe. Add JUST enough flour to form a smooth, slightly sticky, workable ball of dough. Add the flour a 1/4 cup at a time and stop when the dough begins to look cohesive. If you add too much dough, the gnocchi will become dense. Just remember that you can always add more but you can’t take it back once it’s added. Form the dough into a ball and place on a generously floured work surface.
Using a bench scraper, cut off a portion of dough.
Use your hands to roll out the dough into a long 1-inch thick rope. With the bench scraper cut the rope into individual gnocchi. The gnocchi don’t have to be perfect, this is suppose to be a rustic, homemade food. Just make sure they’re all roughly the same size so they cook evenly.
Use the back of a fork to create a ridged pattern on the gnocchi. Again, doesn’t have to be perfect!
Yay gnocchi!! At this point if you wanted to do yourself a favor and save these for later, go ahead and stick the entire sheet pan of gnocchi in the freezer until they are frozen firm. Remove the gnocchi to an air-tight container and freeze for up to 2 months.
- 3 russet (baking) potatoes
- 1 large egg
- pinch nutmeg
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1-2 cups all-purpose flour
Place the whole potatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until a fork or knife enters will no resistance; about 30 minutes. Alternatively, bake the whole potatoes in a 400 degree F oven for about 40 minutes, until tender. Drain and let sit until cool enough to handle. Using your fingers, a paper towel, or a spoon, peel off skin and discard.
With a ricer or food mill mash the potatoes into a large bowl. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the egg. Add the flour about a 1/4 cup at a time just until the mixture comes together in a smooth, slightly sticky, pliable dough ball. Use only as much flour as your need so the gnocchi remain light instead of dense.
Remove dough ball to a generously floured work surface and knead a few times if necessary. Using a bench scraper, remove a large chunk of dough. Roll the piece of dough into a long rope about 1-inch wide. Use the bench scraper to cut the individual gnocchi. Roll the gnocchi off the back of a fork to indent. Repeat with remaining dough.
At this point you can freeze the gnocchi by laying it in one layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, not touching each other, and placing in the freezer until hard. Place frozen gnocchi in a sealed container or bag and freeze for 1-2 months. Do not thaw frozen gnocchi before cooking.
When ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add gnocchi and cook for about 4 minutes if fresh, about 6-7 minutes if frozen. Generally once the gnocchi have risen to the top of the boiling water they need to cook for 2 minutes longer then they are done. Use a spider, skimmer, or slotted spoon and serve as desired. Be gentle as the gnocchi are very delicate and will fall apart easily.
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