I have previously shared my Noni’s gnocchi recipe, and I thought it would be a good post to expand. So here are some terrible photos of the gnocchi making process, and way more narrative than the dumplings deserve.
Gnocchi is a poor-person’s food that somehow, probably just by sticking around so long, found its way onto upscale tables. I think it has a lot to do with the “homey” aspect of it. It doesn’t matter how much money you have, comfort food is still comforting. It also may be because gnocchi are deceptively simple. Two ingredients (maybe three, if you throw in an egg), and at least a dozen ways to screw it up. A good gnocchi is a delightful, fluffy little treat. A bad gnocchi is a pasty, gummy horror. It’s all in the technique, and although it is simple, it’s not necessarily easy.
Gnocchi are (traditionally potato) dumplings. Some people make them with flour & ricotta cheese, and maybe an egg, but no potato. I think that is WRONG, but we all have our preferences. The thing about food is that most people end up liking the tastes they were introduced to in childhood. So if you grew up on ricotta-gnocchi (or as I call them “glue bombs”) I guess that is what you’ll like best. Gross, but whatever.
Actually, the ricotta+flour bombs are probably the originals, as gnocchi eating in Italy pre-dates the introduction of the potato there. But let’s ignore that truth in favor of better taste, shall we?
Some people insist on forming their gnocchi into little rolls and pressing them with the tines of a fork. Weird, if you ask me. But the point of any depression or indentation in pasta is to hold sauce, so I guess if it gets the job done, who am I to judge? (Just kidding, I’m totally judging)
Well, the gnocchi of my childhood were made with flour and potato. No egg, no cheese, not even any spices. They are a bland little blob, a vehicle on which to transport your perfect tomato-sauce to your mouth. That’s the way I like them. I have tried to add egg (not much happens), I have added cheese (sticky), and I have put in herbs and spices (unnecessary). The original plain gnocchi are still my favorite.
FYI my grandmother hailed from a town in central Italy called Fano, in the Marche region. Regional variations are a big reason for gnocchi-ingredient debate, so if your family is from Sicily, or the far north, your Noni’s pasta will reflect that.
So here’s the recipe again, with photo evidence this time!
Boil a few (start with 2 per person, maybe?) peeled and quartered all purpose potatoes (don’t try this with any other potato, it won’t work) All purpose potatoes might also say “Maine” potatoes. Don’t use any waxy potatoes (like “new” or “red bliss”) or any mealy potatoes (like “baking” or “russett”).
When they are soft, drain and mash them (a potato ricer is ideal) onto the top of a pile of flour right on your clean counter. If you’re going to be fussy about this, you can do it on a cutting board I guess. You should have almost equal amounts flour and potato, slightly more potato. I never have measured it, but guessing I’d say 3/4 cup flour per large potato? Maybe.
Knead the potato and flour together (the potato should still be hot) until you have a nice dough. Your hands will be destroyed.
Roll it (or a part of it) into a long “snake” on a floured work surface.
Cut into 1/2 inch pieces, and press your finger into each piece to make a little depression (this is where there is a little family technique, just do your best) Some people leave them as “pillow” shapes, that’s cool too. Or make the fork-tine indents if you must. Whatever.
Use a slotted spoon to skim them out, and drop them into a pan of your favorite sauce (marinara is traditional, but pink vodka or pesto are also good)
Grate some Romano on top and mangia! if you want to be restaurant-fancy, you can put your gnochs in a gratin dish, load them with grated cheese, and bake them for a few minutes. That is pretty tasty.
If anyone tries this, I would love to hear how they come out, and if you like them!