This recipe has been a long time coming. When I was a little girl the lady that would occasionally babysit my sister and I was Italian, and one time she made gnocchi for us. I watched her make the gnocchi from the very beginning and was mesmerized by the fact that you could turn a potato into something that looked like play dough, and that it tasted so good. We ate it in the “fancy” dining room–the one reserved for special occasions–so that made it seem extra important.
Later in my life I got a job as a middle school science teacher. In that school we taught in “teams”–basically four teachers from different disciplines (math, English, science, & social studies) that work together with the same group of students. We would meet daily to discuss the students and collaborate. It just so happened that a bunch of the teachers on my team were all foodies. Sometimes when we were done discussing work stuff, the conversation would turn to the latest recipes that we’d been trying. The math teacher knew a lot about Italian cuisine, so one day I asked her to explain how to make a cream sauce. She told me, “You heat up some cream, add the cheese and a little salt & pepper, then simmer it until it is as thick as you want it.” I couldn’t believe it. “That’s it?! It’s so simple! I thought it would be complicated!!”
I made the cream sauce and it truly was as simple as she had described it. But I still served it on store bought pasta. I was intimidated with the idea of making gnocchi (or any type of pasta for that matter). I have watched someone make it on TV countless times–the episode where Lidia Bastianich makes gnocchi with her grandchildren is one of my favorites. Then this fall there was a recipe for making gnocchi in the September & October 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I read through it, and kept thinking “I can do this.” My husband even gave me a potato ricer for Christmas to help me along in my quest for homemade gnocchi. Then a few weeks ago the episode of Lidia’s Italy in America featured gnocchi again–this time Lidia’s grandkids were a bit more grown up. I felt like the foodie universe was urging me forward. So I finally got over my fear of making gnocchi and did it.
It was totally worth the wait. While this isn’t a speedy recipe, it is definitely straight forward and not too complicated. I didn’t have my kids help with the rolling and shaping of the gnocchi, but now that I’ve got the hang of it I think I would have them help me next time. And they really liked eating this meal, so I’ve added this one to my Kid Friendly Meals page. The only change that I would make is to either double or triple the batch and freeze the extra. I’ve included instructions for this (thanks to the May & June 2012 issue of Cook’s Illustrated) in the notes below.
Gnocchi (adapted from the September & October 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated)
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 4 ounces (3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon) all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling the dough
- 1 teaspoon table salt, plus extra for the pasta cooking water
- gently simmering sauce of your choice
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
- Prick the potatoes with a fork and place on a microwavable plate. Cook for 5 minutes on high in the microwave, flip potatoes over, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Use an oven mitt to transfer the potatoes to the oven rack (do not use the plate). Bake for 20 minutes.
- Peel the potatoes with a paring knife while they are still hot (use an oven mitt to hold the potatoes). Press the potatoes through a potato ricer onto a rimmed baking sheet. Spread the potatoes out and let cool for 5 minutes.
- Put 16 ounces (3 cups) of the riced potatoes into a large bowl. (You will have a bit of potato leftover.) Stir in the beaten egg with a fork. Sprinkle the four and salt over the potato/egg mixture and use a fork to combine. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for 1 minute. Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a 1/2″ thick rope. Cut the ropes into 3/4″ pieces. Roll each gnocchi over the backside of a fork’s tines to create ridges on one side and a slight indentation from your thumb on the other side (see photos above). Place each formed gnocchi on a heavily floured kitchen towel or piece of parchment paper. (Don’t crowd the towel–you will probably need 2 towels for all of the gnocchi.)
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Use the towel like a sling to gently transfer half of the gnocchi into the boiling water. When the gnocchi float, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to the simmering sauce. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
- 1/2 pint of heavy cream
- 1/2 pint of light cream
- 1/3 pound of gorgonzola cheese, broken up into small chunks
- salt & pepper
- pinch of cayenne pepper
- In a large nonstick skillet heat all of the cream gently over medium heat. Add the gorgonzola and gently stir while the cheese melts into the cream.
- Gently simmer the sauce until it is the consistency you desire (it will thicken a bit as it cools, so err on the side of slightly runnier than you want). Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne.