A dish that might look daunting but is deceptively easy to make!
There is something so special about pillowy-soft gnocchi, bathed in a rich sauced and dusted with cheese. It’s probably the pasta I have loved the most since the first time I tasted it but for many years I thought gnocchi were dauntingly difficult to make. As it turns out, they’re actually pretty easy and fun to prepare – it could be a good activity to enjoy with kids who are into helping out in the kitchen. Russet potatoes, even older ones, are best for gnocchi making. My recipe follows the advice of the lovely Italian nonna I learned from who said she likes to cook the potatoes unpeeled so they absorb less moisture and make for lighter, fluffier gnocchi (but you can peel them before cooking if you prefer). Use any sauce you like – a homemade mushroom and onion ragu made with garden-fresh tomatoes that have been oven roasted is particularly lovely.
- 2 medium potatoes (approx. 14 oz/ 400 g total weight), scrubbed
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt, divided
- 2/3 cup (160 mL) ricotta cheese
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 cup (250 mL) flour, plus about 1/4 cup (60 mL) extra for dusting counter and gnocchi
- 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750 mL) of your favourite tomato sauce
- Parmesan cheese, to garnish
- Put whole potatoes into a pot of cold water, just covering potatoes by about 3/4 inch (2 cm).
- Add 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt to the pot. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium and cook for 15 – 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.
- While potatoes are cooking, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
- Drain potatoes then scrub the skins off with your fingertips under lukewarm running water.
- Grate the potatoes on the fine side of a box grater, or press them through a ricer or food mill.
- Put the potatoes in a large mixing bowl. Add egg yolks, ricotta, 1 teaspoon (5 mL) salt and flour. Gently stir to combine until the mixture comes together in a soft, slightly sticky dough.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead gently just a few times, until it forms a ball.
- Cut the ball into four sections. Take one section and roll it out with your hands on a lightly floured work surface until it makes a ‘snake’ about 1/2 to 3/4 inch in diameter (you want it as uniform as possible in thickness). Dust the snake with flour.
- With a sharp knife, cut the snake into pieces approximate 3/4 inch (3 cm) long. Once you’ve cut the whole thing into piece, roll each one gently over a gnocchi paddle or board or over the tines of a fork to give it small ridges. This helps the sauce adhere to the pasta.
- Place the finished pieces on the parchment lined tray and continue working in the same manner with the other three sections of dough.
- When finished, lightly sprinkle all the gnocchi with a little bit more flour and give the pan a shake to distribute evenly.
- NOTE: The gnocchi can be frozen at this point – just put the baking tray into the freezer and when the gnocchi are frozen, transfer to an airtight container. Store for up to 3 months and cook from frozen per the instructions below; it will just take an extra minute or two.
- To cook the gnocchi, bring a large, broad pan (a wok is good for this) of water with the remaining 1 tsp (5 ml) of salt to a boil.
- While water is heating, put the sauce in another broad pan and warm gently over medium-low heat.
- Carefully add the gnocchi to the boiling water (I find a flat skimmer is useful for this) as quickly as you can. Return the pot to the heat and very gently stir so the gnocchi don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Cook just until the gnocchi pop up to the surface of the water and float (which means they are cooked) then use the skimmer to transfer them to the pan of sauce.
- Gently toss the gnocchi with the sauce until they are evenly coated then distribute among four serving bowls.
- Garnish with a little parmesan and serve hot.
Makes 4 servings.