Thursday, October 15, 2009

Homemade Gnocchi

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Gnocchi. Perhaps you know some of it's cousins: potato dumplings, kartoffelkloesse (German), Kroppkakor (Swedish), etc. These little guys are usually made with potatoes and we made the following recipe using regular russet potatoes and also a variation using sweet potatoes. Either way, these are great and the sweet potato gnocchi is especially delicious with a brown butter sauce. You can certainly use any preferred pasta sauce but I find the lighter, the better.

To ridge or not to ridge? Starting out, we had fun running each gnocchi through the tines of a fork for those popular ridges, however you don't have to put ridges on your gnocchi. We were ridged out after 2 large batches of gnocchi... so for our ricotta version, we kept them in small little pillows.

If you haven't made homemade pasta before and you don't have a pasta machine, give these a try!

Potato Gnocchi
recipe adapted from Michael Chiarello

Kosher salt
1 pound russet potatoes
3 to 4 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon gray salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Spread a layer of kosher salt on a baking sheet and arrange the potatoes on top (see Cook's Note). Bake until a bit overcooked, about 45 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle, cut in half, and scoop out the flesh. Reserve the potato skins, if desired, for another use.

Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer or grate them on the large holes of a box grater. You should have about 2 cups. Make a mound of potatoes on the counter with a well in the middle, add 3 of the egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Mix in the potatoes and mix well with hands. Sprinkle 1/2 cup of the flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potatoes. Fold the mass over on itself and press down again. Sprinkle on more flour, little by little, folding and pressing the dough until it just holds together, (try not to knead it.) Work any dough clinging to your fingers back into the dough. If the mixture is too dry, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. To test if the dough is the correct consistency, take a piece and roll it with your hands on a well-floured board into a rope 1/2-inch in diameter. If the dough holds together, it is ready. If not, add more flour, fold and press the dough several more times, and test again.

Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut into 1/2-inch-long pieces. Lightly flour the gnocchi as you cut them. You can cook these as is or form them into the classic gnocchi shape with a gnocchi board, ridged butter paddle, or the tines of a large fork turned upside down. Rest the bottom edge of the gnocchi board on the work surface, then tilt it at about a 45 degree angle. Take each piece and squish it lightly with your thumb against the board while simultaneously pushing it away from you. It will roll away and around your thumb, taking on a cupped shape -- with ridges on the outer curve from the board and a smooth surface on the inner curve where your thumb was. (Shaping them takes some time and dexterity. You might make a batch just for practice.) The indentation holds the sauce and helps gnocchi cook faster.

As you shape the gnocchi, dust them lightly with flour and scatter them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or waxed paper. Set gnocchi filled cookie sheet in front of a fan on low for 1/2 hour (turning gnocchi after 15 minutes). If you will not cook the gnocchi until the next day or later, freeze them. Alternatively, you can poach them now, drain and toss with a little olive oil, let cool, then refrigerate several hours or overnight. To reheat, dip in hot water for 10 to 15 seconds, then toss with browned butter until hot.

When ready to cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds from the time they rise to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, shake off the excess water, and serve as desired.

Cook's Note: Baking potatoes on a layer of salt allows heat to circulate 360 degrees. Scrape the salt into a jar and reuse it again and again. If you do not have time to shape the gnocchi, you can freeze the dough, defrost it in the refrigerator, and then shape it. To freeze shaped gnocchi, line baking sheets with waxed paper and dust with flour. Spread the gnocchi on the prepared sheets and freeze until hard. Remove to individual-portion-size freezer bags. Store in the freezer for up to 1 month. To cook, drop the frozen gnocchi into boiling salted water. Cook for about 2 minutes after they rise to the surface.

You can also use the same above recipe and substitute the russet potato with sweet potatoes for sweet potato gnocchi!


But not all gnocchi needs to be made with potatoes. Here is the ricotta gnocchi recipe we made, using whole wheat flour. We found the ricotta gnocchi dough to be much firmer and easier to work with, however when cooked, the ricotta was much lighter. This is due to the use of ricotta since the traditional potato gnocchi are much heavier and full of more starch.

Ricotta Gnocchi
recipe adapted from Epicurious/Gourmet

2 cups whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 ounces), divided
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour or whole wheat flour
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 (2-inch) rosemary sprig

Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.

Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 (1-inch-thick) ropes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife. Put in 1 layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet.

Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through (cut one in half to check), 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.

Meanwhile, cook butter with rosemary in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Toss gnocchi with brown butter in skillet and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese. Season with salt.

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