I’ve never been a particularly huge fan of gnocchi, the little potato dumplings common in Italy, often served with a tomato sauce. I will make them and serve them as a side… pan seared in butter.
The traditional gnocchi is actually boiled not pan seared.
For whatever reason, perhaps my friend Marilyn’s recent trip and boasting of great gnocchi, I have recently been on a gnocchi kick – trying to make the lightest best version I can.
So in several attempts I have found several things out.
The first of which, is I actually like gnocchi. Who knew?!… boiled instead of pan seared even! Secondly, I like it with a cream sauce, vs. a tomato sauce.
So what is gnocchi? Gnocchi can be made with ricotta cheese, but traditionally it is made with potatoes, egg, and flour. The potatoes are cooked, generally boiled, then mashed together with a single egg and just enough flour to bring it together to a dough. This dough is then rolled into ‘ropes’ and cut into little cylindrical pieces. The Italian way is to then roll these little pieces across the tines of a fork to imprint grooves into the gnocchi to hold the sauce.
So having done some experimentation I found that to produce the lightest gnocchi, the potatoes should be baked, not boiled, and as soon as they are cooked through, mashed (I use a ricer, you can use a box grater if you don’t have a ricer.. or even a fork) and left to steam dry on a cookie sheet. This step allows the potatoes to dry so they are not wet when you make the dough. A drier dough makes a lighter gnocchi.
Once dried (I do this first thing in the morning, and come back to it at dinner time), add 1 egg and just enough flour to bind, about 1/4 cup. Additionally, I added half as much ricotta as potatoes for an extra light rendition of my gnocchi. (Ricotta should be left out in a strainer to drain the liquid, then squeezed in a cheese cloth to make sure it was plenty dry.) I also added flavor agents like parmesan cheese, roasted garlic, and salt. (Truffle oil is also tasty in your gnocchi, particularly with a mushroom cream sauce.)
Then I roll into a rope, cut into pieces and throw into salted boiling water. I skip the tines of the fork bit.
I make a cream sauce by sauting onion and garlic. I made two versions of cream sauce I liked… one I added a variety of mushrooms, then the cream. The other I added sausage, spinach, and peas… then cream. Both were good.
Let the gnocchi come to the top of the boiling water and sit for a minute or two, then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the cream sauce.
They were very light and delicious. I think even Marilyn would approve.
Pity she is on a diet now after coming home from Italy, and doesn’t want any.