Friday, March 11, 2011

Easy Peasy Potato Gnocchi

Although they may seem daunting, potato gnocchi are a lot easier to make than they look. Concerns for dense and heavy gnocchi can be alleviated by following simple steps, such as allowing the cooked, pureed potatoes to dry out as much as possible, and using as little flour as necessary to form the dough. The resulting gnocchi will be light, fluffy, and pillowy. Three qualifications for perfect gnocchi. Pesto is a simple and delicious sauce for these gnocchi, but a nice tomato sauce or meat sauce would do well too.

Potato Gnocchi with Pesto
Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes (about 3 medium potatoes), left whole with skin on
1 to 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 egg yolks
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Pinch grated nutmeg (optional)
1/4 cup pesto, homemade or store-bought

Place the potatoes in a deep pot and fill with cold water to cover by 1-inch. Place the pot over high heat and bring water to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Alternatively, bake the potatoes until tender. Drain the potatoes and return them to the hot pot to dry them out. Shake the potatoes back and forth in the pot to dry them well. Peel one potato at a time, and pass it through a ricer or food mill (fitted with the plate with the medium-sized holes). Repeat with the remaining potatoes. Spread the passed potatoes on a sheet pan to allow them to cool and dry out a bit (do not compress the potatoes or else you will seal in their moisture).

Lightly flour a baking sheet and set it aside. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.

On a work surface or in a large bowl, add 1 cup flour and pile the potato on top, make a well and add the egg yolks, salt and nutmeg.

Gently combine the ingredients and knead until you have a smooth dough. It should be soft and pliable. If the dough is too sticky and wet, knead in more flour as necessary, but add as little as possible, as too much flour will make the gnocchi dense.

Divide the potato dough into 4 pieces. Lightly flour your work surface and hands, and roll out each piece of dough between your hands and the work surface until you have a 3/4-inch thick rope. Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Either leave the pieces as they are (perfect squares) or shape them with the tines of a fork.

To shape with the fork, flip the fork over so the bottom is facing up. With your thumb, roll each gnocco (singular for gnocchi) along the tines, pressing firmly at first and then almost flicking the dough onto the work surface. This will leave a dimple on one side and ridges on the other. Place each gnocco on the lightly floured baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining dough.

In 2 or 3 batches, boil the gnocchi. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, remove the gnocchi to a large mixing bowl about 30 seconds after the gnocchi rise to the surface of the water. Add the pesto to the bowl of gnocchi and add a bit of starchy water (from boiling the gnocchi) to loosen it up, if necessary. Use a large spoon to lightly toss the gnocchi with the pesto and serve immediately while still hot.


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