Rummaging through files of recipes, cookbook ideas, classes taught, presentations written, – well, you get the idea that my files are too full of years and years of just stuff – I often come across recipes or ideas that still spark my interest. And once in awhile I glean something really worth reviving. And this is one of them.
Although I do still make homemade pasta from time to time – from very long time to very long time – I had forgotten all about my mom’s gnocchi. How, you might ask, did a first American-borne child of Scottish immigrants come to make gnocchi. Unbelievably, she had been introduced to this traditional Italian dish by the mother of a friend of my brothers while they were out fishing on Flathead Lake in Montana. And that’s a whole other story!
Once mom mastered potato gnocchi, she felt that hers surpassed all gnocchi on earth. If on the menu, she would order it. Only, I think, to be able to say “these are sure not as good as mine”. When she was alive, I never dared to make gnocchi and, once she had passed on, for years I didn’t attempt them probably because I was too afraid that she would come back to watch over my shoulder and say “those are sure not as good as mine”. Anyway, years passed and I did begin to make them and, you know what, they weren’t as good as hers. Hers were light as air and absolutely loved to absorb just enough sauce – whatever she put on them – usually just lots of butter and parmesan cheese. Here’s her recipe; now it’s up to you to make gnocchi as good as hers.
I serve them as a main course, sometimes just as mom did, sometimes with pesto, and sometimes with marinara sauce. I have made one change – mom used mashed potatoes, I use extra large baked Idaho potatoes for their lightness. I do, however, still press them through the food mill to make sure there are no lumps. You’ll need about 2 pounds to yield 2½ cups.
2½ cups mashed potatoes (see my change above)
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons salt
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
Approximately ½ cup Wondra flour for dusting
Lightly coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil. Set aside.
Using the Wondra, lightly flour a clean, flat work space.
Lightly flour a sheet pan. Set aside.
Combine the potatoes, eggs, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium mixing bowl, beating thoroughly with a wooden spoon. When well combined, beat in 1½ cups of the flour. When blended, scrape the dough onto the floured surface.
Begin adding the remaining 1 cup flour, kneading it into the dough. This should take about 5 minutes. If the dough becomes too sticky, sprinkle the surface with additional flour; however, don’t over-flour or the gnocchi will be tough.
Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long strip, approximately 1-inch in diameter. Cut each strip into pieces about ⅔-inch wide. Place the pieces on the floured sheet pan as you work.
At this point, fill a large stockpot of water and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
You can now either leave the dough as is or roll each piece on a gnocchi paddle to form ridges which will, once cooked, serve to catch the sauce used. If using a paddle (or a large dinner fork will also work), working with one piece at a time, place the dough on the paddle and, using the side of your thumb, quickly and gently press forward on the dough so that it will curl up and form a rather oval shape engraved with the linear markings of the paddle. If using the paddle, return the dough pieces to the floured sheet pan.
When all of the gnocchi has been shaped, place about one-third of them in the now rapidly boiling salted water. As the gnocchi rises to the top, using a slotted spoon or strainer, transfer them to the olive oil coated dish. Tent with foil to keep warm.
Serve hot, either with lots of melted butter, parmesan cheese, and cracked pepper, marinara sauce, or pesto or, in fact, any sauce that you like.