One of my family favorite meals from my Southern Italian culture has become an essential hearty comfort food. Gnocchi (NYOHK/kee) is the perfect meal to heal the soul. It is an authentic evening meal that is undeniably good on those cold winter nights or snowy Sunday afternoons. Most cooking and baking is an art and a science. This is certainly on of those italian family favorites that is an art.
Every county throughout history has some form of dough ball that dresses their family table. In German Cultures there is the dumpling, Jewish cultures, the Matzo, Asian cultures the Khinkali while in Italy we got gnocchi. After years and years of practice, I have created my recipe and method to make these little pillows of heaven. Gnocchi of course is not complete without an authentic sauce made from San Marzano tomatoes, beef, pork, veal and the holy trinity of Italian cooking, soffritto. The crowning bolognese with a splash of heavy cream romantically tops Gnocchi.
The perfect day of the week for Gnocchi making is Sunday Dinner. My son argues with me that dinner is only at 7 pm and anytime you eat at noon, it is lunch. I am trying to teach him that this is true everyday of the week except Sunday Dinner. The sacred family space for gathering, eating something warm creating a Thanksgiving look a-like experience or Sunday Dinner. In my mind it is a celebration that create readiness for the week and protects time to share together.
The following it my recipe for Gnocchi.
2 pounds of russet potatoes (6 medium)
4 whole eggs
4 cups of flour (some for dusting)
pinch of salt
- Bake the potatoes on a cookie sheet. I like to cover them in olive oil and sprinkle the outside with coarse salt. Folk the potatoes to allow steam to release. Bake at 425 degrees until the fork is pulled out easily.
- Once the potatoes is baked, cut them in half and scoop out the flesh onto a large wooden board. I like to hit them with a pinch of salt at this point. Take spoonfuls and fill a potatoes ricer and run all the potatoes through making perfect little pills of potatoes. It is important to let the potatoes fully cool or otherwise when you add the eggs they will cook. I like to cool the potatoes on this wooden board so they cool faster and are ready to mix.
- Once cooled on the board gather the potatoes spuds in the center and measure them out. I like to get about four cups of potatoes to add 4 cups of flour and 4 eggs. Depending on how many cups of potatoes you have adjust the flour and eggs accordingly. Once the potatoes are measured add the flour making a mound on your board. At this point I like to add the salt and combine carefully the potatoes and the flour, Do mix, just gently combine the dry ingredients. In the center of the mound create a well where you are going to crack the whole eggs.
- Crack 3-4 whole eggs in the center of the potatoes/flour mound in the well.
- Begin to mix all the ingredients, kneading them gently but careful not to over mix or the Gnocchi will be tough.
- The dough feels dense but soft and should only be stiff enough to form logs.
- Once formed into logs cut each Gnocchi in little half-inch pieces. They look like till pillows on dough.
- If you don’t have a Gnocchi board you can get one at your local Italian speciality store or simply use the end of a fork. The little roll on the folk or board creates little areas that will catch the sauce and hold the pasta.
- Bring a 12 quart pot of water to a boil after you add a handful of salt. The water should taste similar to the sea.
- With the water boiling rapidly carefully add Gnocchi. The water will stop boiling, do not stir at this point, wait until you start to see the Gnocchi pop to the surface of the boiling kettle. When the raise to the top of the kettle time about 6-8 minutes. They will cook fast because they are fresh. At about 6 minutes, take one out and cut it in half to test to for firmness. Unlike pasta, the longer you cook Gnocchi, the harder they can get. Think pillows not rocks.
- Strain the water and toss the cooked Gnocchi with your favorite tomato sauces.
One of my absolute favorites is to add a bolognese sauce made of soffritto, beef, pork veal with a splash of heavy cream. Top with fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese. This recipe is mine. The one I make for Pajama Day’s, Holidays or Sunday Dinner. Sometimes I make them and flash freeze them then store them in one quarter zip locks for a quick meal or if we need an impromptu italian party. I store them in the freeze next to my canning jars full of spaghetti sauce and bolognese.