Gnocchi is a comfort food for me. I love the supple squidginess of it, the way you don't need to chew but can push it apart with your tongue as if it were edible bubble gum. It's ever so tasty, too - a winning combination.
I had intended to make my own gnocchi for a very long time, but kept getting side-tracked. The fresh, store-bought version is usually good enough to persuade me that I wouldn't be eating better if I were to make my own, I'd just be eating my own. After spotting the Hay, Hay It's Donna Day event at Cafe Lynnylu, centerd around gnocchi making, I felt my time had finally come.
I have two large and trusted Italian cookbooks: The Silver Spoon cookbook and Marcella Hazan's tome, The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I wanted to make basic potato gnocchi, and the two version differed between including an egg or not. Marcella's take on the situation was that an egg wasn't a traditional ingredient and that it was only to be added when the right type of potato wasn't available or the cook wasn't full of proper gnocchi skills. Oh ho, thought I: this smacked of a gauntlet being thrown down. The choice was made and Marcella's eggless recipe it would be.
Generally I felt things went well, especially considering it was my first attempt. The biggest surprise, in a positive sense, was how the right type of potatoes made the rest of the process nearly fool-proof. The rolling out of the dough into logs was also surprisingly easy and almost seemed to happen of its own accord. The biggest flaws were that I didn't have a potato ricer/food mill (only a masher) and so I couldn't get out all the lumps, and that the recipe didn't call for any salt and left the gnocchi a bit bland. I also wasn't able to make lovely little fork-driven indentations in my gnocchi, despite my heart being in the right place (clearly, my fork and fingers were in the wrong places), but this mainly only effected the aesthetics of the dish.
I enjoyed my gnocchi making. Enough dough came out from it to power two gnocchi dinners, and with my favorite pesto in the house this could only be a good thing. I do have to admit the store-bought, fresh gnocchi is still a good purchase, both in convenience and cost. On my lazy days, when I can't find a fresh supply of Desiree potatoes, it will probably be the store-bought gnocchi which accompanies my pesto.
Marcella Hazan's Potato Gnocchi
- 675 g /1 1/2 lb Desiree or King Edward potatoes
- 170 g /6 oz plan flour
- Boil the potatoes whole with the skins on. Cook until they are thoroughly tender, trying not to pierce them too often since this will make them water logged. (My Note: My potatoes were different sizes and some cooked more thoroughly than others, but I didn't know this until they were out of the pot. If they need more cooking, microwave them until soft, since this won't put more water into them).
- Peel the potatoes and put them through a food mill and onto a clean and well-floured work surface while still warm.
- Add most of the flour to the potatoes, and kneed together. All the flour might not be necessary, so only add the last bit of it when sure it's needed. The mixture is ready when it's smooth but it's still a bit tacky, and doesn't stick to the work surface.
- Divide the mixture into about 3 equal parts, and roll out into long sausages, about 1 inch thick.
- Slice the logs into about 3/4 inch thick bits.
- (this step I failed on, but I will copy Marcella's note directly). You must now shape the gnocchi so that they will cook evenly and hold a sauce successfully. Take a dinner fork with long, slim tines, rounded if possible. Working over a counter, hold the fork more or less parallel to the counter and with the concave side facing you. With the index finger of your other hand, hold one of the cut pieces against the inside curve of the fork, just below the tips of the prongs, At the same time that you are pressing the piece against the prongs, flip it away from the tips and in the direction of the fork's handle. The motion is flipping, not dragging.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Test boil 2 gnocchi to see how they have come out. When they float to the surface, leave them cooking another 10 or so seconds. If the flavor is floury, the main batch will need this 10 extra seconds plus another few seconds. If they have nearly dissolved with this 10 extra seconds, only cook them until they have floated to the surface.
- Serve immediately, preferably with the best pesto you can get your hands on.