Last Saturday, when my daughter was visiting from Portland where she’s going to grad school, she asked me if we could make some gnocchi! “Um, sure”, I replied, a bit hesitantly. You see, my mom is the gnocchi queen and I’ve always been a bit scared to tackle the job myself without her help and expertise. Memories of the one other time I made them without her help, and the disaster that ensued, kept haunting me. That time they had turned into mushy doughy logs that fell apart while boiling. Yuck! Certainly not how my mom made them! But how could I resist my lovely daughter’s humble request to make these delicious soft pillows (which, I’m sure, were her memories of Nonna’s delicious gnocchi!)?
Armed with my mom’s verbal instructions, I held my breath (not literally) and began the process. I boiled 4 large russet potatoes until they were nice and soft. Working with only 2 at a time, since my mom instructed me that the gnocchi dough needs to be worked while the potato is still calda (hot) and which was stressing me out to work in fretta (swiftly), I left the other two in the hot water for the next go round of gnocchi dough making. I placed some flour on my counter before peeling the potatoes and putting them through a ricer.
I then made a well in the riced potatoes and added about a cup of flour, an egg, a touch of oil, and some salt.
I then began working it all into a dough ball. I kept adding flour a little at a time and working it all until it formed a nice doughy ball (not too sticky). I then pinched off a bit and rolled it into a log about 1 inch thick. Always working quickly (that’s the key, I guess), I quickly cut little pieces that were about 3/4 to an inch thick.
My daughter took a fork and rolled the dough pieces on the tines to create some ridges (this helps to hold the sauce better). We placed the finished gnocchi on a floured platter and put them in the refrigerator to cook later. We continued this process until all the dough was used up. I then proceeded to do the exact same thing with the 2 other potatoes that I had left in the hot water (and they were still hot – luckily!)
Side note: If you decide to freeze the gnocchi, instead of eating them in a few hours, place the platter in the freezer until the gnocchi have frozen completely and then you can put them into a ziplock bag to use whenever you want.
After cleaning up the big mess (and believe me, it was quite a disaster), we were ready to cook them. Gnocchi have to be cooked in small quantities otherwise you will end up with a giant potato clump at the bottom of your boiling water. So, boil some water in a pot, add some salt, and place no more than 10 gnocchi into the boiling water at a time. Give them a little stir and wait for them to rise to the surface. Once they have risen, scoop them out with a perforated ladle or spoon. Place them in a bowl and add your favorite sauce (and grated cheese, if desired). Cover the bowl with aluminum foil to keep them warm while you proceed with another batch of 10 gnocchi in the boiling water. Keep doing this until you have cooked all the desired gnocchi. Once you have finished and your bowl is full, stir the gnocchi gently to coat them all with the sauce and cheese. Ta da – all done and ready to eat!
This time, my gnocchi were beautiful and fluffy – they looked perfect and they were delicious! I used 3 different sauces – tomato, pesto and alfredo and called them “Gnocchi Tre Colori” – red, green, and white – just like the Italian flag! My daughter’s boyfriend wanted to make sure she took good notes because she will have to make them for him once she gets back to Portland! And the most rewarding stamp of approval came from my mom, when I brought her some left overs thE day after, and she said they were PERFETTI!!