Gnocchi (pronounced no-key) are little potato dumplings that can be served as a side dish with a simple sauce, herbed oils/butters or turned into an elegant main entrée. Meticulous preparation is required, so we spent a morning in Pescara restaurant’s kitchen with Chef Tony Pester learning how to “do it right!”
Ricer or tamis (a round metal kitchen utensil with small holes through which ingredients are strained by pushing them through the holes with a scraper or pestle).
BASIC POTATO GNOCCHI
Servings: about nine entrées
14 large russet Idaho potatoes
1 pound all-purpose flour (do not substitute bread flour)
1 cup egg yolks (about 16 eggs)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (properly shredded fresh works best or purchase a pre-grated style)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tbsp. kosher salt
- Heat oven to 350° F. Wash and pierce the potatoes with a fork, then bake 60 minutes or until cooked through (never boil; water is the “enemy” of good gnocchi dough). Cool them enough to handle, then score lengthwise with a knife and squeeze them to release steam (this prevents the potato’s starch from over-developing).
- Once completely cooled, “rice” the potatoes by placing a small portion of the potatoes into the ricer or tamis. Pull the ricer handle down (if there is one) or use a scraper or pestle to push the potatoes through the small holes of the ricer. Repeat until all potatoes have been riced. Although time consuming, never skip this step or mash the potatoes; ricing outcome impacts the final texture of the gnocchi—strands shouldn’t be too fine or too thick.
- Refrigerate riced potatoes on a sheet pan. Once cold, combine them with the flour by squeezing with your hands as if you were “choking” the potatoes and flour together. Once combined, add remaining ingredients together.
- Work the dough with your hands until the deep yellow of the yolks is fully incorporated to an even color throughout.
- Dust the dough with flour, then place on a floured surface. Shape into a loaf then cut into four equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball; wrap in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes.
- With a light-touch kneading motion, work one portion at a time on a floured surface. Do not use heavy pressure as when kneading bread. Fold, knead gently, then turn 90 degrees. Repeat until dough is a soft, airy consistency. Roll the portion into a strand the width of a man’s thumb, then cut into sections to form small squares (remember these will swell when boiled). Lightly roll squares in flour to dust all surfaces.
- Bring six cups of water to boil; add 1 ounce olive oil. Turn down heat slightly, then add gnocchi. Water temperature will drop just after adding the gnocchi, so briefly turn up heat, then turn down to hold at a simmer.
- Circle a spoon around the inner edge of the pot to create a whirlpool effect. Simmer about 1½–2 minutes until gnocchi are floating, then remove with a slotted spoon to a rimmed sheet pan and toss gently with olive oil to coat. Plate with your favorite sauce and enjoy, or cool and place in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer for later.