Italian cooking is often deceptively simple. While there are usually very few ingredients involved, they need to be the right ingredients, or everything goes to crap and you don’t know why. This is the case with gnocchi, which only have two ingredients, but knowing what those two ingredients are is not enough to make them well.
One of the ingredients is, of course, potatoes. We brought some potatoes up from Italy, so I’m on a mission to make enough gnocchi to feed an army.
Tips and recipes below the fold.
Of course there are plenty of potatoes in Germany, but unfortunately they also happen to be exactly the wrong kind of potato for gnocchi. The best potatoes for gnocchi are the ones with the red skin and the very white interior, as they are the starchiest kind of potato we have in Italy.
While this variety is considered the best, it is not necessarily the only kind of potato that will do. You can also use old potatoes, i.e. the ones with the thick, tough, papery skin that is practically inedible. The only kinds of potatoes that you can’t use are new potatoes, the ones with the very thin skin you can practically rub off with your thumbs when you’re washing them. That is because they are too watery, and thus you need to add too much flour, and so your gnocchi will come out like little bullets.
Once you choose your potatoes, boil them whole and unpeeled until they are soft. Once again, this is so they do not absorb too much water. Once they are boiled allow them to cool, then peel them and pass them through a potato ricer.
So, how much flour should you add to your potatoes? Well, the reality is the less flour the better. As a general rule, your proportions are
1 kg of potatoes to MAXIMUM 1/2 kg. flour
Usually, I’ll add about 300gr of flour and see if I need more. The dough needs to be manegable. If you add all of the flour and the dough is still too soft to work with, you can try to add an egg or two.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that, once you add the flour, you need to start making the gnocchi immediately, because the dough will start to absorb humidity and get softer and softer.
As soon as you add the flour and mix it well with the mashed potatoes, start rolling out the dough into your “potato snakes”, and cutting the gnocchi to the size that you like.
Once they are cut, they need to be ridged, or they wont hold the sauce at all. For this, you have two options. You either need to get yourself one of these handy little wooden things
Or, you can always roll the gnocchi on the back of a fork. Either way, roll the gnocchi to give them these ridges, and then you can either freeze them, or cook them immediately.
If you want to freeze your gnocchi, make sure to freeze them in a LOT of flour, or they will stick together in one big wad. When you thaw them, pull them out of the flour, roll them in your hands to get rid of as much excess flour as possible, and lay them out on a surface to thaw.
To cook your gnocchi, boil a pot of salted water, then place the gnocchi in carefully, stirring them so that they don’t stick to the bottom. When they float, they’re done, so you should just skim them off the top of the boiling water as they rise with a slotted spoon.
As for the sauce? There are loads of options. However, I have some peppers sitting around in my fridge, so how about a roasted pepper sauce?
- Wash red and/or yellow peppers, and place them whole in the oven at 200-220°C until soft and the skin blackens, about 30-40 minutes. Let them cool, then peel and remove the seeds.
- heat some olive oil in a pan and add a clove of garlic, cooking it until soft and golden without letting it burn
- Add the peppers to the oil, let them flavor a little bit, then pour everything into a food processor with a couple of tablespoons of sour cream (or milk, or heavy cream, or any creamy-type thing you have on hand) and blend.
- At this point, you can put the sauce in a jar, cover the surface with oil and keep it in the fridge for about a week. When you decide to cook the sauce, add a handful or two of grated parmesan, to make it pink and super cheesy.
Nom nom nom….