Potato gnocchi for me are the symbol of selfless love. My mother made the best gnocchi, but she did not eat them, not even one. After all that work she would just have a plate of simple spaghetti while we feasted on the heavenly dumplings.
There is something esoteric about making gnocchi. So many things can go wrong. They can turn out too tough, floury little pebbles, or too soft and fall apart in the water. My mum only ever made them in the summer with new potatoes. I know others that will only make them with old potatoes. Everyone has a theory about which potatoes are best, but basically you need your potatoes to be floury and dry.
In Umbria, as children, we are thought that we should not drink water with gnocchi, because they become indigestible. Indeed my (Dutch) husband has this theory that they grow inside the stomach. Therefore we don’t water them, we accompany them with red wine. Better safe than sorry.
The real secret with gnocchi is to make sure the potatoes are dry before mashing. You want to add just enough flour to obtain a dough. If the potatoes are too moist they will absorb too much flour resulting in the above mentioned pebbles.
I don’t make ridges on my gnocchi to “hold” the sauce. I prefer to finish them in the sauce like I do with pasta, I just don’t stir them as much.
The second secret is to make 2 or 3 gnocchi e cook them in a little pan of hot water before making the rest. This way you know if your dough will resist the cooking. If they revert to a puree you definitely need to add more flour.
- 1 kg/ 2 lbs floury potatoes
- 2 eggs
- 300 g plain flour (or gluten free flour mix)
Place the unpeeled potatoes in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook until tender. Drain, then transfer in a warm oven or to a griddle lined with foil for 5 minutes or so to drive off all the moisture.
When still warm, mash the potatoes, preferably with a mouli or potato ricer, then mix with the eggs and flour. Knead lightly until smooth adding flour if the dough is too sticky to handle. Do not overwork the dough.
Roll the dough into cylinders about 2 cm ( 2/3 inch) in diameter. Cut each cylinder into 2 cm (2/3 inch) pieces . Place on a floured tray, making sure they do not touch.
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. Heat the sauce. Drop a third of the gnocchi in the water. As they cook, they’ll float to the surface. Let them cook them about 1/2 minute from the time they surface, then scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Transfer them in a warm bowl, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and cover. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi until all are cooked. Now transfer them in the pan that holds the hot sauce, stir lightly, add cheese if using, stir some more and serve immediately.
Serves 5-6. For one person you need about 35 gnocchi (200 gr/ 7 oz) .