It always amuses me what my brain comes up with to entertain myself when I get snowed in. The snow started Saturday night and then continued all day on Sunday, leaving me a little stir crazy and having to cancel my Oscar party plans in Denver. Since my plans had been cancelled, I decided to take inspiration from this book I was reading, The Shoemaker’s Wife. It’s about these Italian immigrants who come to NYC and fall in love and they’ve probably talked about gnocchi every other page. While I love books that involve cooking and food, sometimes it inspires me to do things. Crazy things like, make gnocchi from scratch.
Now, some of you may know better than to tackle homemade pasta on the night of the oscars, much less at 5:30 but I decided that was exactly what I was going to do. All the while wearing a tiara and my pajamas. Tom told me that it would make the food taste better and based on the outcome, I’d say he was right. I’m going to have to wear my tiara in the kitchen all the time now. It’s a good thing I’m single.
Gnocchi was the very first meal I had when I landed in Italy five and a half years ago. I was in Sorrento, just north of the Amalfi coast, and my brother and I had spent the evening wandering the little alleys of the most adorable Italian town in search of this restaurant he had heard about. I wish I could tell you where it was but alas, that knowledge is lost in the meandering we did. I was way too transfixed by all the noises, the sights, the scents, the Italianness of everything. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. There was barely anyone at the restaurant when we found it but the food. THE FOOD! It was amazing. I ate probably a quarter of what was put in front of me (don’t worry, my brother ate the rest! It was not wasted! Don’t murder me with a pitchfork) but it stuck with me as probably one of the best meals I had the whole trip. Right alongside all that gelato. I’ve always been curious about pasta making and have thought about doing it and gnocchi seemed like the easiest thing to make. It was pretty simple but it took a lot of physical effort to produce and boy, do you produce.
Some notes before we dive into the recipe: I make enormous messes of myself and the kitchen when one cup of flour is involved (or even 1/4 cup…) and let’s just say there was about four cups of flour used. I don’t think I’ll ever be getting the flour out of my hair, clothes, nails, cookbook, countertop and linoleum floor. I really wouldn’t be surprised if it was in my tiara! So maybe, wear an apron or two. And definitely take your rings off. (Why do I always forget that?!)
You need to devote a big chunk of time to this endeavor and maybe you should have a sous chef because making this by myself was manageable but I definitely ran into time management problems. You have to keep such a close eye on the gnocchi once it goes into the boiling pot of water that to turn away and start working on the sauce might be disastrous. (Or you know, get caught up in the Oscars feed on Twitter. Not that that happened to me or anything.) It also makes a LOT of food so I’m hoping I can freeze it or bribe people to do what I want by giving them lots of potato-ey goodness.
I paired the gnocchi with a sauce that was talked about in the book, a sage-and-butter sauce that sounded intriguing. I was worried about it being bland but not only is it the easiest (and probably least healthy) sauce I’ve ever made, but the sage is amazing and the gnocchi itself is very flavorful. If you’ve never had gnocchi before but want to try this, I recommend small portions. Very small. It’s extremely filling but way too delicious not to try. You can also have it in a simple tomato sauce, like the one I had in Italy. Don’t forget the cheese. Never forget the cheese.
Gnocchi di Patate
Adapted from Lidia’s Favorite Recipes by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich
- 5-6 Large Idaho or russet potatoes
- 2 tbsp plus 1 tsp salt
- Dash of pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- About 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, for serving
Boil the potatoes in their skins for about 40 minutes or until they are easily pierced with a knife. When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and then set them aside to cool completely. Once cool, grate them into a mound on a well-floured surface (my counter worked was the only space big enough!) and form a well in the middle. Stir the teaspoon of salt and the dash of pepper in with the beaten eggs and pour the mixture into the well.
This part took me a while so I didn’t start the water until the dough was nearly ready but she says at this point to bring water in a large pot to a boil with 2 tbsp of salt. Work the potatoes and eggs together with both hands (ringless, please), and gradually add the 3 cups of flour. This, along with the grating of the potatoes, equals a nice upper body workout.
Important: incorporation of the ingredients should take no longer than 10 minutes–the longer you work it, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become.
Dust the dough, your hands and the work surface with even more flour. She says lightly, I say be generous. That stuff is sticky. Make the ball of dough into kind of a log if you can and then cut into 6 equal parts. (Dust the dough with flour until no longer sticky) Using both hands, roll each of the 6 pieces of dough into a 1/2 inch thick rope. I wound up rolling it out slightly, cutting it in half and then rolled it out. Made it a little more manageable for those who don’t have as much counter space, like me! Cut the rope in 1/2″ intervals. Indent each dumpling with a fork or your thumb (it will help the sauce stick to the gnocchi).
Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water, stirring gently and continuously with a wood spoon and cook for about 2-3 minutes until they float up to the surface. I did this in segments, each half of a rope went in and then I would start on the next. Even cooking and all. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, and put in whatever container you choose and cover with the sauce of your choice.
My recommendation would be the sage and butter sauce. Melt 4 tbsp of butter in a pan until golden brown, add 8 sage leaves and remove from pan. It will sizzle and pop for a little bit and then after about thirty seconds I guess, add in the juice of half of a lemon. Let sit for a minute and then pour over the gnocchi. Oh, and as I said, don’t forget the cheese!