Sunday, February 12, 2012

Gnocchi di patate

Had lunch with Mom and Dad yesterday, and Mom treated us to gnocchi.  So simple, but so very good.  We dressed them with a brown butter-shallot-sage sauce, and a generous sprinkle of grated cheese.  

4 c leftover mashed potatoes
4 eggs
2-3 c all-purpose flour

Measure out the potatoes into a large bowl.  Add the eggs and mix well.  You probably won't need salt for these, as the potatoes were already well seasoned when they were served the first time.

Add flour to the potato mixture.  Mix it well with your hands until it comes together as a dough.  Depending on how moist your potatoes are, the dough might need more flour until it is no longer sticky.  Turn out the dough onto a floured pastry board, and give it a few kneads.  If it is still sticky, add some flour until it is no longer sticky.  You can add a fair amount of flour, but keep in mind that the more flour you add, the less tender the gnocchi will be, and the longer they will take to cook. 

At this point you can return the dough to the bowl, cover it with a towel, and let it sit for a few hours until you're ready to make the gnocchi.

Cut the ball of dough into 8 equal-sized pieces.  Roll each piece into a log about the diameter of your thumb.  Use ample flour so that it does not stick.

Cut the log into small dumplings, about the size of a big, fat grape.  Again, flour the surface as necessary so the gnocchi don't stick.

Roll each dumpling gently across the floured surface of the board with your index and middle finger, in order to create a 'dent' in the surface.  This 'dent' increases surface area, allowing for better cooking and more area onto which sauce can cling.  Gnocchi can and are sometimes called 'cavatelli,' which means 'little things that have been pulled out,' which describes the rolling method used to make the indentation: you sort of 'pull' them across the work surface.  Alternately you can roll the gnocchi on the tines of a fork, which creates a ridged pattern.  Either method works fine, but my grandmothers always used their fingers, so I do, too.

As you finish a 'rope' of them, pick them up with a bench-scraper, toss in a bit of flour, and lay them on a baking sheet that has been covered with a linen towel.  

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Pick up the towel with the gnocchi, and carefully pour them into the water.  Boil them until they float, which will only take a few minutes. (Again, the more flour you used, the longer they will take to cook.) 

Meanwhile, melt butter in a skillet large enough to hold all the gnocchi, add minced shallot, and saute until the shallots are softened.  Add in chopped fresh sage (or dry rubbed sage, if that's all you have). 

Scoop the cooked gnocchi from the pot with a spider or large slotted spoon right into the skillet.  Toss gently, and add some of the pasta cooking water to make a sauce. 

Serve immediately, passing cheese at the table. 


Gnocchi, dressed with a brown butter-shallot-sage sauce, and a generous
sprinkle of grated pecorino.  It doesn't get any better than this. 

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