This is a huge admission, but to be honest, I have never made gnocchi before. In culinary school we all served a stint in the Italian restaurant Caterina de Medici. We spent fourteen days there, seven in the kitchen and seven in the dining room where I very dramatically set my hand on fire while making a flaming coffee drink— but that is another story. My seven days in the kitchen of Caterina, as we called it, were spent on the fish station, where my culinary partner and I sautéed trout fillets, and made a lot of fresh mozzarella for appetizers daily. I don’t even recall gnocchi being on the menu (it isn’t now). I like gnocchi, but I don’t love t. I generally will opt for pasta, but my daughter really loves it, so we are on a quest to make great gnocchi, and I’m inviting you to join us on our journey.
I think I was in my thirties before I even tried gnocchi, it just wasn’t around, and now you can buy a variety of types of it in almost any grocery store. We’re starting with a simple recipe, using only three ingredients, and I am using my Italian bible, Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking for technique, and though she doesn’t use egg, I did. This doesn’t mean I haven’t checked out multiple other books, websites etc. for reference, and naturally there is not a lot of agreement. Yes eggs, no eggs, and of course my inevitable history lesson, reminding me that until potatoes (a New World food) were introduced to Europe, and specifically Italy, gnocchi were made with cheese, or semolina, not potato. Both ricotta and semolina gnocchi are still quite popular. The semolina type is made into a dish call gnocchi alla Romana, and sounds decadent and delicious, baked with butter under a blanket of cheese mmm… another day.
Some people claim it is easy to make gnocchi, and I think that is true, making gnocchi is easy, but making really good, cloud-like gnocchi requires practice and finesse. We reside in Philadelphia where Marc Vetri is the reigning King of Gnocchi! So we enter this endeavor with some level of intimidation and trepidation, yet we push on. We started with your basic potato gnocchi, and a quick tomato sauce.
As I mentioned, gnocchi has only three ingredients, 2 potatoes (I used russets, Marcella advised me to use boiling potatoes, and this seemed like a good choice), 1 egg, beaten (these work as culinary glue for beginners like me) and 3/4 cup of flour, plus plenty for dusting everything in sight!
- Score the potato skin around the middle of it to help it peel later
- Boil potato, skin on for 35 minutes, remove from water, and peel (carefully!)
- Put potato in a ricer or food mill, I think you really need one of these to get the best consistency
- Mix the flour into the hot potato, then turn out onto a well floured counter, make a well, and add egg
- Work mix together gently
For the sauce, whoosh up a small onion in your food processor, don’t puree, leave it a bit chunky. Put this is a pot heating over medium with 2 TBL of olive oil, let this cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring often. Add 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tsp dried oregano and keep stirring. Once the onion and garlic are fragrant, and starting to turn golden, add one 28 ounce can of diced San Marzano tomatoes. Let that cook, covered on low heat for thirty to thirty-five minutes. Taste for seasoning and puree with an immersion blender.
We agreed, our first attempt was good, but not great, but we’re not deterred! We will back to try again. Do you make great gnocchi? If so, do you have any secrets you’d care to share?
Thanks!! And as always, HAPPY COOKING!