My mother used to make some of the best gnocchi I have ever tasted. That’s right, used to. I haven’t been able to convince her to make them for probably five years or more. Including the time when I was sixteen and asked for gnocchi as my birthday dinner. “It’s too much work!” complains the woman who makes six or more loaves of bread almost every week. And there was the challenge. Could gnocchi really be as much work as she said it was?
The short answer is no, not really. It was work, for sure, but not too much. If I had started early enough (which I could have, since I’m still on winter break), we could have eaten dinner at a reasonable time. Instead I started around six, and ate dinner at about the same time as most of California (we’re in New Hampshire). I am very lucky that John is so patient with me.
However, I am going to have to sit down with my mom and get some lessons on forming gnocchi. I ended up with only one that looked the way I wanted it to. The rest all looked a little sad and deformed. But they tasted fantastic. Not quite as good as my mom’s, but still very good. And the best part is that there’s a whole bag of homemade gnocchi sitting in my freezer just waiting for me to need a quick weeknight dinner once the new semester starts up.
adapted from Michael Chiarello (my mom still hasn’t given me her recipe)
Time:The recipe claims it should take about 2 hours, it took me closer to three and a half
1 pound russet potatoes
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano (I usually substitute pecorino romano in any recipe that calls for Parmesan, I personally prefer the taste)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting board and dough
Bake the potatoes at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes, until they are slightly overcooked. As soon as they are cool enough to touch, cut in half and scoop the flesh out of the skins. I cut my potatoes into small chunks and ran them through a chinois, which worked quite well. However, the ideal is to use a potato ricer, which I don’t have. You could also mash or grate your potatoes.
Make a mound of the potatoes, with a well in the middle, and add three egg yolks, the cheese, nutmeg, salt and pepper to the well. Mix everything together with your hands (expect to get fairly messy!). Sprinkle 1/2 cup of flour over the potatoes and, using your knuckles, press it into the potato mixture. Gently knead the flour in, adding the remaining 1/2 cup little by little. The less you knead, the lighter your gnocchi will be. If the dough is too dry at this point, add another egg yolk or a little water. The dough should give under slight pressure. It will feel firm but yielding. You should be able to roll it out into a 1/2-inch diameter rope.
Keeping your work surface and the dough lightly floured, cut the dough into 6 pieces (or more, if that’s easier for you). Roll each piece into a rope about 1/2-inch in diameter. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch long pieces, and roll the pieces into rough balls. Using the tip of your thumb, roll each ball down the tines of a fork. This will produce a dumpling with ridges on the outer curve from the fork and a smooth surface on the inner curve where your thumb was. Lightly flour a baking sheet lined with parchment or waxed paper and place each piece on it until you have formed all the gnocchi
To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. Drop in the gnocchi and cook for about 90 seconds once they rise to the surface. Removed the cooked gnocchi with a skimmer, and serve.
To freeze any remaining gnocchi, freeze them on the prepared baking sheets until they are hard, and then store in freezer bags. They will stay good in the freezer for up to 1 month. Cook frozen gnocchi in boiling salted water for about 2 minutes once they rise to the surface.