If making homemade pasta is the equivalent of a 90-minute session of stress-relieving yoga, then making homemade gnocchi is the equivalent of a 60-minute session of stress-relieving yoga – it’s quicker, but the end result is still a prolonged state of pure and utter bliss.
It may sound a little strange to equate the feeling of yoga to the feeling I get while making homemade pasta, but hear me out. Both activities require focus. Both activities require some sort of strength and stamina. And both have the ability to take me from high strung to eerily calm in a flash. And while the tranquil feeling I get from doing yoga lingers on well past the class itself, the one thing it doesn’t give me that homemade pasta does? Well, food of course.
When I don’t have the time to make pasta from scratch, I find a yoga class I can attend, and when I don’t have the time to make pasta OR do yoga, I turn to gnocchi. It requires less maintenance, is much less fastidious when it comes to achieving the perfect texture, but still relieves any pent up anxiety festering in my head.
To achieve the perfect gnocchi, you must begin with a perfect potato, and a perfect recipe. My potato of choice? Russet. My recipe of choice? Lidia Bastianch’s classic gnocchi recipe.
For me, the russet potato has the perfect amount of starch, but doesn’t get gummy when combined with flour and egg, unlike other varieties of potatoes. As far as the recipe, while normally I’d try to develop my own, Lidia’s requires no adjustments, and is perfect as written – why mess with a good thing?
The one detail Lidia doesn’t have in her cookbook? A step-by-step process on how to make the gnocchi, yes there are very detailed instructions, but I believe that nothing beats actually seeing it for yourself. It kind of demystifies what is often thought to be an overly-complicated process. So I’m going to do something a little different today, and take you through each step of the process.
You first need to cook the potato, I like to do it in an extremely large pot, that way the potatoes have room to breathe. Season the water with plenty of salt, and when the potatoes are fork-tender, take them out, peel them and run them through a ricer. These ricers are pretty cheap, and they not only make the perfect gnocchi, but also make perfect mashed potatoes — I highly recommend having one at your disposal.
Next, the potatoes need to cool completely. I let mine set out for about an hour.
Now, it’s time to get messy. Start by pouring the eggs over the potatoes….
Then sprinkle with one cup of flour….
Use your hands to gently bring the dough together….
Knead the dough a a few times…
Until it looks like this. The important thing to remember in this step is to not overwork the dough. You only want to knead it until it comes together, otherwise your gnocchi will end up really tough.
So at this point you’re going to cut your dough into 4-6 sections, and start to roll each section into a rope. I like pretty small gnocchi, so I roll mine out to about a 1/2 inch thick.
Using your knife, cut into gnocchi about 1/2 inch thick. Once you press down with the knife the gnocchi will automatically turn into that rectangular shape.
Now this is usually the part that trips people up, the indentation is not a science, it doesn’t have to look perfect, heck you don’t even HAVE to do it, and you definitely don’t need a fancy tool. Just use the tines of a fork to put a little indentation on the cut side of the gnocchi and roll the fork forward. Easy peasy.
Now you have beautiful, perfect gnocchi ready to be cooked! At this point you want to either cook them right away in a large pot of boiling water, or you can line them up on a baking sheet, pop them in the freezer until they’re solidly frozen and then transport them to an airtight container.
Stay tuned on Friday to see what I did with these little pillows of dough….
- 1 ½ pounds russet potatoes
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs, scrambled
- 1 ¼ cup flour, plus more if necessary
- Place potatoes in a large pot. Fill with water and 1 tablespoon salt, make sure the potatoes are covered by two to three inches.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce to a medium-high heat, cook until potatoes are soft and can be pierced with a fork.
- Peel potatoes and half potatoes. Put each half in a ricer, and push potato through. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes.
- Spread the potatoes out on a baking sheet, sprinkle with salt and cool for 1 hour.
- Once the potatoes are cool, pile in rectangular mound.
- Pour eggs over potatoes and sprinkle with 1 cup of flour. Using your hands slowly incorporate all the ingredients.
- Once all the ingredients are incorporated, gently knead dough until smooth. DO NOT OVERKNEAD.
- Divide the dough into four quarters. Using your hands, roll each quarter into a rope, about ½ inch thick. Use flour as needed.
- Using a sharp knife, cut into gnocchi, they should be about ½ inch apart. The gnocchi should form a rectangular shape when cut.
- Using the tines of a fork, place the middle gently on the cut side of the gnocchi and roll forward towards the ends of the tine.
- To cook the gnocchi: Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season liberally with salt. Add gnocchi in and cook for 7-8 minutes.
- Serve with sauce.
Recipe only VERY slightly adapted from Lidia’s Italy cookbook.