Chosen Bites: Make pasta like an Italian

Find out how to adapt gnocchi to a variety of tastes.

small browned dill gnocchi 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
small browned dill gnocchi 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
I can think of very few things more comforting and cozy than light and soft potato dumplings swimming in a bowl of melted butter and cheese. With winter finally taking hold of the Midwest, I am craving comfort food and like a favorite pair of slippers, a bowl of dumplings hits the spot. Gnocchi is Italian pasta that varies in recipe from region to region throughout the country, with potato being a fairly recent addition. The dumplings are served as a pasta course, an addition to soups, as a side dish or as an entrée.
No matter how you serve gnocchi, it’s delicious and versatile. Gnocchi can be served simply with a generous sprinkle of extra virgin olive and grated cheese for a dairy preparation or with meatballs for a meat preparation or sautéed vegetables……you get the idea, gnocchi is adaptable to a variety of tastes.
I teach a lot of cooking classes and gnocchi is often on the list of most requested items. Gnocchi is also fairly easy to make with no special equipment necessary. All you need is boiling water, an ice bath and some organization. The best part about making gnocchi is that the gnocchi can be made several days ahead of serving. The cooked gnocchi is cooled in an ice bath, to stop the cooking process, and then tossed with olive oil and can be refrigerated for up to two days before serving.
Potato Gnocchi
3 pounds russet potatoes 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 extra large egg, lightly whisked 1 pinch kosher salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil Freshly grated nutmeg
1. Boil the whole potatoes until they are soft (about 45 minutes)
Chef’s hint: Whenever you boil potatoes, place the potatoes, unpeeled, in cold water. The potatoes will heat gently and the skins will not crack, making the potatoes soggy.
2. While still warm, peel and pass through vegetable mill or potato ricer or grate on a box grater. Do not mash them or process in food processor as they will be gummy.
3. Make a well in center of potatoes and sprinkle all over with flour, using all the flour. Place egg and salt in center of well and using a fork, stir into flour and potatoes, when the egg is mixed in, bring dough together, kneading gently until a ball is formed. Knead gently until ball is dry to touch.
4. Set six quarts of water to boil in a large saucepan. Make an ice bath with six cups of ice and six cups of water.
5. Roll the dough into 3/4-inch diameter logs and cut into 1-inch long pieces. Flick pieces off of fork to make indentations (the indentations will help hold the sauce).
6. Drop the gnocchi into boiling water and cook until they float, about a minute. As gnocchi float to top of boiling water, transfer them to ice bath. Continue until all have been cooled off. Let sit several minutes in bath and drain from ice and water.
7. Toss with extra virgin olive oil and store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours until ready to serve.
8. Before serving, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the pan with olive oil. Brown the gnocchi, in batches, until crispy and browned on each side. Sprinkle with freshly grated nutmeg.
9. Serve with favorite pasta sauce, grated cheese, melted butter or sautéed vegetables.