In our house we really don’t use recipes, except when baking. And even then, I lean heavily on artistic license. Taking raw ingredients and making it a spontaneous, interactive experience rather than a set of instructions is really important for me. Our ingredients change based on the season and what our neighboring farmers have available. But something that is always on hand, year round, is potatoes. Jesse wrote about how we store potatoes for over eight months until fresh potatoes are harvested - check it out here.
I grew up making fresh pasta with my mom, and later spent time in Italy, which affirmed my belief that dry pasta really doesn't compare. On my last night in Milan, I had gnocchi for the first time. The chewy dumplings were served with a tangy lemon butter sauce with pine nuts and wilted greens.
Gnocchi has three important aspects for me:
- it is made of potatoes - of which we have unlimited amounts
- it behaves like pasta and can carry pasta sauces - unlike other potato dishes
- I don’t need to get out my pasta making machine - the dish feels special but doesn’t take over my kitchen counter
Potato, egg, and flour are the base of gnocchi. As with cooking anything, the highest quality of these ingredients will make your food taste the best. In addition to our potatoes, I use Meadowlark Organics All Purpose Bolted Flour and eggs from my parents' hens. Flour and eggs are fairly easy to source from small scale producers these days. Maybe you have your own backyard chickens, maybe you grow your own potatoes (or want to try!), maybe you connect with a regional miller for your flour. Just sayin’.
I have also added greens, herbs, garlic, sun dried tomatoes to gnocchi dough. Whatever interesting things you can do with fresh pasta, you can try with gnocchi. This recipe I am sharing here is extremely simple but you can use it as a canvas for other ingredients. I deviated from my usually gnocchi recipe by adding an extra egg. This gave the dumplings more structure and chewiness.
Gnocchi is pronounced NEE-O-KEE - at least that's what I learned in Italy. Also the kitten from Curious George is named Gnocchi and that is how the Italian restaurant owner said her name.
serves approximate 4
2 cups flour + plus extra
1 tsp salt
Scrub and dry a countertop surface. You will be rolling dough on the surface so you want it to be clean.
Peel two potatoes and quarter. Boil in a pot with ½ tsp salt until easily pierced with a fork. Drain and transfer to a bowl to be mashed. Cool for 5-10 min. Mash with a hand masher until completely smooth. Potatoes must be room temperature before beginning dough making process.
In a large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of mashed potatoes, eggs, and flour. Stir with a spoon to combine ingredients. With hands, continue to work ingredients together until dough is uniform.
Dust your surface with flour and begin kneading gnocchi dough by hand. Continue working in flour until dough does not stick to your hands or the countertop surface.
Break the dough ball into 4 pieces. Roll one ball at a time into a long snake, ½ inch thick. Cut snake into 1 inch pieces. Use a fork or knife to make decorative imprints on dumplings. Set batch on wax paper or dusted surface. Repeat with each ball of dough.
TO COOK: bring a large pot of water to a boil with ½ tsp salt. Drop in gnocchi and cook for 3-5 minutes. Gnocchi will rise to the top when cooked. Drain.
TO SERVE: Gnocchi can be served like pasta. Butter, olive oil, cheeses, marinara, pesto, meats, vegetables. It is also great leftover and pan fried with butter and eggs.