My husband has been requesting I make him homemade gnocchi for, I don’t know, maybe a year now. It’s not that I don’t want to make the foods that Charlie requests; but I’ve gotta admit I’ve been a little intimidated to try making gnocchi. I’d heard they were somewhat difficult to make. And so this past winter I just never quite got around to trying them.
I did try out a few brands of those pre-made gnocchi you can buy at the grocery store. But, have you ever had those pre-made gnocchi So rubbery and tasteless. I’m generally not a snob about buying pre-made ingredients, but the store bought gnocchi I’ve tried… bleck. Maybe I just got the wrong brands? IDK.
Anyway, all the awful store bought stuff is what finally pushed me into attempting my own homemade gnocchi. I know gnocchi doesn’t really seem much like a summery type food. But, it’s been raining here for like two or three weeks straight. That’s gnocchi weather if you ask me, so I’m going with it.
We had gone out to dinner a little while back and had the most amazing gnocchi with Italian sausage. Charlie and I both just loved it; and I really, really wanted to make my own version at home. And with all the rain, it seemed like the perfect time to finally gave it a try.
I am sooo glad I did! I ended up with tender little potato pillows, all ready to soak up my sauce, right on my first try. I did more or less follow the guidelines of the peerless Marcella Hazan in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, when making my gnocchi, so they really were bound to turn out wonderful really. Marcella knew her stuff people! (I should have just tried her recipe last winter instead of being all intimidated. Oh well…live and learn.)
Though my gnocchi has turned out really good, and I would definitely tell people not to be intimidated by making them; I will be honest and also tell you that making them is somewhat persnickety. The dough is of the stickier sort, and a little tricky to handle without sticking to everything in your kitchen. But, you don’t want to just correct it by adding too much flour, because it totally messes with the perfect texture of the gnocchi. Making the gnocchi is also kinda time consuming. This might be partially because at my house we needed a double batch to make sure all the boys had enough gnocchi to be happy. And last, getting those cute little lines on the gnocchi is kinda a pain in the butt. I will also say I got a lot better at it the longer I went along.
Don’t let my honestly scare you away now. I still say homemade gnocchi is totally worth it; and not at all worth being intimidated by; despite the persnickety.
A few last assorted notes/tips on the gnocchi, and then we’ll talk sauce.
- I chose to follow Marcella’s advice and make my gnocchi without egg. She says the texture is better this way. However the dough becomes much easier to handle when you add an egg for binding; and the texture will still turn out a-ok. So I’ve included optional directions for adding egg, if you want to be sensible and try the recipe with egg the first time around. I’m not always sensible and jumped right in with the eggless versions myself, and like I said they turned out great; so you know whatever works for you!
- If you aren’t going to cook the gnocchi pretty much right after you make em’ then freeze em’ because they will degrade and ruin all your hard work. Plus they are easier to cook when frozen.
- Freeze the gnocchi by lining a baking tray with parchment paper, and placing the gnocchi without touching on the tray, lined side up. Freeze for at least an hour.
- Frozen gnocchi can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month in the freezer.
- Do not defrost the gnocchi before cooking them.
- Keep your cooking water really hot when cooking the gnocchi. This will keep them from sogging out. Also cook in small batches, so that the water stays hot enough for each batch to cook properly.
- Make a double batch, because everyone is going to eat a lot of gnocchi.
And now, moving on. Did I tell you about the sauce for the gnocchi? Oh my, that sauce. Tangy tomato, butter, onion, garlic, a splash of cream, and then spicy Italian sausage. Simple, yet perfect.
Seriously, perfection. The whole thing. Perfection. I mean what’s not to love about this dish?
So go make gnocchi already!
Homemade Gnocchi Serves 4. Adapted, barely, from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.
- 1 and 1/2 lb. yukon gold potatoes
- 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour, +additional as needed
1. Set a large pot of water to boil. Meanwhile, wash the potatoes. Boil the potatoes with their skins on until very tender. When the potatoes are tender drain off the water, and allow the potatoes to cool enough that you can touch them well enough to work with. However, try to leave them as hot as possible, they will puree easier if still hot/warm.
2. Peel the skins from the potatoes using hands/paring knife. Then puree the peeled potato until smooth using a food processor, food mill, or immersion blender.
3. Transfer the puree to a large bowl and add the flour. Mix until smooth. The mixture should be soft and smooth but slightly sticky. If overly sticky add additional flour, a few tablespoons at a time until the correct consistency of the dough is reached. Add no more flour the absolutely necessary.
4. Prepare two large baking sheets, but lining with a sheet of parchment paper. Set with in easy access of your work surface. Lightly flour your work surface. Divide the dough into four parts and roll each part into a “snake” about 3/4 inches thick. Very lightly flour the tops of the snakes. Use a very sharp knife to cut the snakes not 1/2 inch pieces. This will create little rectangular pillow shapes.
5. Use a dinner fork to create the lines on the gnocchi. Hold the fork parallel with the counter top. Use one finger to press each piece of gnocchi into the rounded side of the fork, creating thin lines. The back side of the gnocchi will have a small depression from your finger. Place the gnocchi lines facing up, on the prepared baking sheet without touching.
6. After the gnocchi cook immediately or freeze for an hour and cook at a later time. Frozen gnocchi can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 month. Do not defrost gnocchi before cooking.
To cook the gnocchi:
1. To serve gnocchi family style prepare a shallow serving platter with a few ladles of the hot sauce you will be serving the gnocchi in. Set near your cooking area. OR To serve in individual portions: prepare each bowl with a ladle of the hot sauce you will be serving the gnocchi in. Set near your cooking area. Heat a large pot of water (about 4 quarts) to boiling.
2. When boiling add one gnocchi to the pot to test cooking time. The gnocchi will float to the top when cooked. Remove and taste the first gnocchi. If it is on the floury side add an additional add 2-3 seconds to the cook time for the next batch. (Add the time to after the gnocchi begin to float to the top.)
3. Make sure the water has returned to boiling, then add the first batch of gnocchi (about 15-20 pieces at a time). Cook until the gnocchi float to the top, add the additional 2-3 seconds cook time if necessary. Use a slotted spoon to pull the gnocchi from the pot and shake off any excess water. Place the gnocchi on the prepared platter, or in prepared bowls.
4. When cooking is complete cover gnocchi with more sauce, turning the gnocchi to coat. Serve immediately with fresh grated parmesan.
Spicy Italian Sausage and Tangy Tomato Sauce Serves 4.
- 6 spicy Italian sausage links
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/4 white onion diced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 6 oz can tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
- water as needed
- sea salt and black pepper to taste
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
1. Heat a large sauce pot to medium high heat. Add the sausage to the pan and cook until each side is browned, turning to cook evenly.
2. After the sausage has browned add the butter, onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent. 2-3 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and broth to the pot. Stir well. Allow the pot to come to a gentle boil, then reduce heat to a low simmer. Allow the pot to simmer for 1-3 hours. Add water as needed if too much liquid evaporates. Stir occasionally.
3. After simmering, about ten minutes before serving taste sauce and add sea salt and black pepper to taste. Add the cream and stir to mix well. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes to return to temperature. Serve hot.