So, I am not Italian and I am CERTAINLY not your Grandmother. You've probably picked up on both those things by now. But I'll damned if I don't love gnocchi like an Italian grandmother. So simple, but so incredibly comforting. Potatoes in pillowy, dumpling form, topped with an array of inviting sauces (have I mentioned how much I love sauce?!?! I think that my love of sauce deserves an entire post, more on that later.)
I can trace this love back to my first experience with gnocchi as a child, at Sole Mio in downtown Nashville. This was my first taste of REAL Italian food. Started by a Northern Italian husband and American wife team, they hit Nashville like a starchy, saucy hurricane in the mid '90s. I dined there quite often with my family as a child, and vividly remember my first taste of gnocchi. I ordered gnocchi with the walnut pesto, and it just about blew my mind. THESE WERE POTATOES?!!?! OMG (or whatever we said instead of OMG at that time)!!! Is it pasta? Is it potato? WHO CARES, GIVE ME MORE OF IT!
I just knew how hilariously delicious it was. Here is my attempt at making it, based off of several recipes from which I cherry-picked ingredients and methods. (Note: That's how I make a lot of recipes, simply through reading a lot of them and deciding how to make them based upon ingredients I have and like, and methods that seem feasible. It really works out to my advantage, I find.)
2 lbs Russet Potatoes (2-3 large ones)
About 2 cups all-purpose flour
2 lightly beaten eggs
2-3 tsp sea salt
1. Throw those unpeeled taters into some cold, salted water. Cover them and boil until cooked all the way through. Make sure they are tender throughout when you savagely poke them with a fork during the cooking process.
2. Remove p'taters from heat and peel them while warm. Don't burn yourself, these guys will be steaming hot. Here is the point where methods differ: if you have a food mill or potato ricer like most of my married friends, use that. If you are single like me and have probably one or two mistmatched forks to your name, use those to mash up the taties on a work surface. Let them cool a bit.
3. Ok so now you have a pile of hopefully loose and fluffy potato. Gather them into a mound and create a well in the middle. Pour lightly beaten eggs into the well, with salt. Sift flour on top.
**At this point, put on another pot of salted water to boil. This will be for the gnocchi***
4. Fold ingredients together thoroughly, making sure egg and flour are evenly distributed with the potatoes. Do not be scared of the amount of flour, even though the dough might start to feel dry. Just make sure the flour is completely mixed in with the potato and you will be fine. If you don't add enough flour, your gnocchi will turn into mush while cooking. True story.
5. Once you've mixed all ingredients together evenly, separate into about four balls. Roll each ball into a long "snake". Cut it into about 1/4 in. pieces.
6. Use a fork to create indentations on one side of the gnocchi, pushing against your finger to form a curve on the other side.
7. Dunk a batch of gnocchi (prob 10-15 at a time) into the boiling water. They'll sink before they swim. When they pop to the surface after about a minute, give them another 2-3 minutes to cook through. You don't want them to become overcooked and squishy.
8. Use a slotted spoon to remove them from the water and let them drain in a colander for a few moments. Add to desired sauce and serve.
I used a very, very simple "sauce" for my gnocchi.
2 tblsp butter
some dried thyme
Melt butter, brown slightly. Add thyme. Toss in the gnocchi and grate some parmaggiano romano on top.
Seriously, this is easier than I thought it would be, but it is not without some trials and errors. I urge you all to try, try and try again. You'll be glad you did!