Gnocchi di patate

As much as I love cooking, I have a sort of complicated relationship with the place where it all happens, or rather, my kitchen. Its miles away from one of those spacious, luminous Food Network-style kitchens (damn you, Ina Garten,!) instead rather old and ugly, complete with brown-yellow tiling and flowery iron light fixtures that were probably all the rage forty years ago. It has a (very small) gas oven devoid of knobs to indicate the temperature, leaving me to constantly guess what size flame might equate 170 degrees Celsius (I admit I've gotten pretty good at estimating this by now). The electrical sockets are old and dated, meaning that many of my appliances can be used only with the help of an adapter, and there are only two of them in the kitchen, one located on the floor, the other high above the stove, meaning any blending or beating is done either with me sitting on the floor or with the bowl held aloft. The burner on the lower right hand side of the stove is fussy, lighting only every so often, the sink went through a spell where it dispersed freezing cold only (leaving us to boil water to the dishes) and there is minimal counter space. That being said, its my kitchen, my very own little space to cook and bake, and persnickety as it may be, I'm still able to successfully whip up dishes and desserts that I'm pleased with. My kitchen is large enough to feed a group (provided I've not invited more than 6 people,) the large cabinet behind the kitchen table is a great place for my cookbook collection, and the counter near the window is the perfect place for photographing food. While I dream of one day having a big, airy kitchen with a double oven, marble counters, and perhaps even up to date electrical sockets, I might as well focus on what I do have -- featherlight, heavenly, homemade gnocchi! -- which brings me to today's recipe. 

Wait!! Don't ex out of this page just yet! If you're intimidated by making gnocchi from scratch, don't be! This dough comes together very easily, and while it can be a bit time consuming to roll and cut the gnocchi, its quick work if you have a helper or two. I personally find the whole process calming and relaxing -- cut! roll! shape! -- and just think of how much culinary street cred you'll get when you can tell your friends and guests that no, you did not get these at the supermarket, and yes, you made them with your very own two hands, just like a real Italian nonna. And how do they taste?! These are fluffy and cloud-like, perfect when tossed with toasty cozy sage butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a million times better than any store-bought gnocchi you'll ever eat. They were a perfect New Year's Eve dinner for my family when I was home, and if you needed any more convincing: this recipe comes from one of the major authorities on Italian cooking here in the U.S, Lidia Bastianich, so you know these are going to be good.

A couple of notes: I boiled the potatoes here, but you can also bake them in an oven at 400°F for about 40 minutes, or until they're easily pierced with a fork. The gnocchi should be cooked just as they are made, otherwise they should be frozen and eaten at a different time. To freeze for later - Lidia suggests you arrange the gnocchi as soon as they're shaped in a single layer on a baking pan and place the pan in the freezer until they're solid, about 3 hours. Gather the frozen gnocchi into resealable freezer bags and store for up to 4-6 weeks. Finally, I made both a tomato basil sauce and a brown butter and sage sauce (as I did with these canederli and these squash pancakes) to serve these -- the tomato basil sauce was for my lovely lactose intolerant sister-in-law!! -- but these are also delicious with ragรน. Finally, Lidia (and many other cooks) shape their gnocchi using the tines of a fork.  I prefer to slice mine directly from the ropes, so they're more square than round (we'll say they're more "rustic"?) but I save a lot of time this way (plus, I saw a chef on who cut gnocchi the same way while recently watching an episode of La Prova del Cuoco with my grandfather, so I think it's a legitimate way to do it!) If you prefer to use a fork to shape the gnocchi, I have included Lidia's directions below. 

Hold the tines of a fork at a 45-degree angle to the table with the concave part facing up. Dip the tip of your thumb in flour. Take one ball of dough and with the tip of your thumb, press the dough lightly against the tines of the fork as you roll it downward toward the tips of the tines. As the dough wraps around the tip of your thumb, it will form into a dumpling with a deep indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other.

Looking for other dumpling recipes? Check out these canederli! Want a potato side dish instead of a potato pasta? Allow me to suggest these decadent mashed potatoes. Want more pasta? Click here.


3 large baking potatoes (about 1 3/4 pounds or 785 grams)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/4 cup (28 grams, one ounce) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups (200 grams) flour, or as needed

Butter and sage to serve

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork but the skins are not split, about 35 minutes. 
    Drain the potatoes and wait until they are just cool enough to handle (note that the hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, the lighter the gnocchi will be.) Working quickly and protecting the hand that holds the potatoes with a folded kitchen towel, scrape the skin from the potato with a paring knife (as you can see from the photo I started with a potato peeler, but the skins come off so easily this isn't necessary). Press the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer. Spread the riced potatoes into a thin, even layer on the work surface, without pressing them or compacting them. Let them cool completely.
      In a small bowl, beat the egg, salt, and pepper together. Gather the cold potatoes into a mound on a large bowl and form a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Knead the potato and egg mixtures together with both hands, gradually adding the grated cheese and enough of the flour -- start with about 1 1/2 cups -- to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. 
      1. It should take no longer than 3 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture (as Lidia warns: the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become). 
      Wash and dry your hands. Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with some of the remaining flour. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and set off to one side of the work surface. Place one piece of dough in front of you and pat it into a rough oblong. Using both hands, roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch thick, flouring the dough if necessary as you roll to keep it from sticking. 
        Slice the ropes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour and roll each piece quickly between your palms into a rough ball, flouring the dough and your hands as needed to prevent sticking (if you're going to make gnocchi with ridges, this would be the time to do it -- see the directions in italics above!) Set on a baking sheet lined with a floured kitchen towel and continue forming gnocchi from the remaining balls of dough. Repeat the whole process with the remaining pieces of dough. At this point the gnocchi must be cooked immediately or frozen.

        Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface. (You can cook the gnocchi all at once in two separate pots of boiling water. If you make a double batch of gnocchi, I strongly recommend cooking them in batches in two pots of water.)
        Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon as they rise to the top, draining them well, and transfer to a wide saucepan with some of the sauce to be used (learn how to make brown butter here). Toss lightly and serve immediately, topped with lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serves 3-4 as a main course or 6 as a first course.

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