Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gnocchi di patate

I remember ordering gnocchi in Italy many years ago. I pronounced the word the way Americans typically do, "nok-ee," with the gn as in "gnu." The waiter corrected me. "In Italy, we say 'g-no-ki.'"

I've owned a gnocchi board for years (they're inexpensive), but it's sat unused. "I really need to make gnocchi one of these days," I said time and time again. And the gnocchi board would sit in the pantry, next to the pasta machine. (For the record, in Italian the item is called a tagliere riga.) Today, it was going to get used.

I probably should have consulted more than one cookbook, but I checked the Silver Spoon Cookbook and their recipe seemed like a good one. It's a practical and dependable Italian cookbook. And it's a simple recipe. 2 ½ pounds of potatoes. 1 ¾ cups of flour. A egg. A pinch of salt. All of the recipes in the Silver Spoon Cookbook are short; this is not a cookbook with detailed, step-by-step instructions.
Messy sheet pan
Messy sheet pan

The recipe suggests steaming the potatoes so that they don't become waterlogged. So I did it. They have to steam for about twenty-five minutes, so I went off to write (specifically, my thoughts about Canto 5 of the Faerie Queene). After about twenty minutes, I realized I'd better look at them. They had that toasty smell of a pot just gone dry, so I tossed some water in. The potatoes were still a bit firm, so I kept steaming them for a bit.

I riced the potatoes onto a sheet pan, mixing in the flour as I went. When my potatoes were well mixed with the flour, I added the beaten egg. There aren't going to be a lot of photos of the process this time. This dough is much stickier than egg pasta. It was clear that while I was going to knead it to be smooth and even, it was never going to be something that only stuck to itself. Or, to put it another way, there are no photos of the process because I had gnocchi dough coating my hands.

Gnocchi waiting for the pot
Gnocchi waiting for the pot
Moving lumps of dough to a floured board and rolling it out was easy. I cut the rolls into little pillows which can be the final step, but I rolled them against the gnocchi board which turned them into little ridged footballs. As they rolled off the board, they went right down onto a towel to rest until I was ready to cook them.

Then the big question: how to sauce them. I decided to go for something easy and classic: sage butter and cheese. I picked some sage leaves from the garden. To chop or not to chop? Nah. I wilted the sage leaves in hot olive oil and butter. When the gnocchi floated, they were done. Into the skillet.

The verdict: These were the best gnocchi I've had. I'm trying to think of a restaurant experience where I've had better, and can't (although I rarely order gnocchi in a restaurant). They were toothy without being gummy; sort of the perfect degree of resistance to the bite. All-in-all, I think that buying gnocchi at the store may be a thing of the past.

The recipe did make a fair amount. I didn't weigh the final product, but given the ingredients, I've made a bit over 2 pounds of gnocchi. I'll freeze the rest.
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  1. For those folks who know something about Spanish, perhaps the better way to indicate the pronunciation of gnocchi is to write it ñoqui! (Which is actually how it is referred to in Spanish, but then Spanish tends to respell foreign words à l’espagnol, q.v. béisbol, fútbol, etc.)

    1. I suppose the problem is that I don't know Spanish and I would have no idea (generally speaking) what an Italian word would be in Castellano. I do have it on good authority that Castellano speakers have a great difficulty learning Italian due to the great similarity of the two languages.


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