Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Gnocchi

I have an updated gnocchi post, with nicer photos and an accompanying video, if you're interested.

I LOVE gnocchi (NYUH-kki => the 'kki' part is pronounced like the "cky" in "sticky," with a softer 'k' sound). If you've never had gnocchi, it's a pasta made with potatoes that are kind of like little baby dumplings (the balls of dough kind of dumplings, not the filled dumplings). They're pillowy and soft and make a delicious  alternative to just regular pasta.

They can be served with a red sauce, with a cream sauce, or they can be fried in some brown butter and sage. The dough can be made with basil or spinach or even sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. Seriously, you can let your creativity fly, once you've mastered the basics. Obviously, you could go for ready-made store bought gnocchi but I find that the pieces are usually way too large and resemble larvae (think: "slimy yet satisfying" grubs that Simba eats in The Lion King).

I'm not a gnocchi master (yet) but I've gotten pretty good at knowing when the dough has enough flour incorporated into it, which is really important. If you don't add enough flour, it'll be like trying to boil little balls of mashed potato in water and they'll just fall apart and get really mushy. If you add too much flour, they'll be really dense and have a terrible texture. Let's get started!

Ingredients [makes about 1 lb of gnocchi]:
2 potatoes (about 1 lb)
1 cup flour (+/- 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup asiago cheese (or parmesan)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg white
Start by peeling the potatoes and boiling them until they're tender. Let them cool at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes until they're cool enough to handle. You can also roast the potatoes if you prefer (which I think is the classic method but it takes longer and I just don't have that kind of time!).

In a container, get about 1-1/4 cups of flour ready. You may not use all of it, but it's good to have a little extra, in case you need it.
In another bowl, grate some cheese and measure out the baking powder, nutmeg, and salt.
To assemble the dough, start by ricing the potato (if you have a ricer) but if you're like me and you don't own one, you can use a grater (either manual or the one on your food processor). I like to use the medium sized grating holes. Once the potatoes are processed, add in the cheese and egg white. Then, use a fork to start mixing the ingredients together. Once things are generally incorporated, add in the flour, a bit at a time, until it becomes way too difficult to mix using a fork.
When the fork becomes a useless tool, use your hands to mix the dough together. If it sticks to your hand and feels like mashed potatoes, you need more flour. Gently incorporate little by little until it still looks like mashed potatoes but feels stiff like a dough.
Now you can start making the gnocchi. Grab a piece of the dough and roll it out into a log (about 1/2" thick) and then use a knife to cut it into 3/4" long little pillows. Then, grab each pillow and roll it onto the back of a fork to get little indentations in the dough. These indents will hold onto sauce.
Place finished gnocchi on a floured plate.
Keep going until you have a nice pile of pasta. At this point, these can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If you want to use them right away, boil them in salted water and then prepare however you like. Tomorrow, I'll be sharing how I prepared mine.
Here's the recipe page:

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