Potato Gnocchi

Celebrated chef and cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, an expert in Italian cuisine, shares her recipe for delicious, kid-friendly gnocchi. Here's the how-to for a dish that may not be a quick production, but is worth every minute.

Hands-On Time: 90 minutes
Ready In: 2 hours
Yield: about 72 gnocchi

Ingredients

    1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 large egg, beaten well
    1 1/2 to 2 cups all-purpose flour


    Recommended Equipment
    A potato ricer or vegetable mill

Directions

    Making and Shaping the Gnocch

  1. Boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender when poked with a fork. Don't let them overcook to the point that their skins split. Drain.
  2. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and put them through the ricer or vegetable mill, using the medium disk and letting the shreds fall onto a large baking tray or board. Spread them out, sprinkle on the salt, and let them dry out and cool for at least 20 minutes.
  3. Pour the beaten eggs over the potatoes, and then 1 cup of the flour. Gather the mass together and knead, adding a little more flour as necessary to make the dough hold together. But keep it light; the more you work the dough, the more flour you'll need, and you don't want to incorporate too much or the gnocchi will be heavy and dry. A good criterion: slice the mass in half and examine the texture. It should look like cookie dough peppered with small holes.
  4. Cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll out each portion into a broomstick about 18 inches long, then cut crosswise into 2/3 inch pieces and toss them lightly in flour. You should have about 72 gnocchi.
  5. Take one piece of gnocchi and place it, cut side down, on the tines of a fork, then with your lightly floured thumb press into it, at the same time pushing it off the end of the fork and onto a floured board. The gnocchi should have an indentation where your thumb was and ridges from the fork tines on the other side. Repeat with all the remaining pieces and cover with a clean towel. At this point, they should be cooked immediately or quickly frozen.

    Cooking the Gnocchi
  6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  7. Drop the gnocchi, 5 or 6 at a time, into the boiling water — the larger the pot the less time they will take to return to the boil. Once they have, cook for 2 to 3 minutes until they plump up and float to the surface; when done, they will have a softer feel and will no longer thump against the side of the pan as you fish them out with a strainer or slotted spoon. Drop them gently from your strainer into the waiting sauce.

Freezing Gnocchi
Spread the gnocchi out, not touching, on a floured baking pan or whatever will fit in your freezer, and freeze them. When they are solid — in about 2 hours — gather them together, shake off excess flour, and store them in sealed plastic bags for future use. They will keep for up to 6 weeks.

To cook frozen gnocchi, do half a batch at a time and double the amount of cooking water. Because they are frozen, the cooking-water temperature drops, and if there are too many in the pot they will disintegrate before the water returns to the boil.

Pesto Asparagus or Green Bean Sauce
Trim and cut at an angle into 1-inch pieces about 3/4 pound asparagus (you should have about 4 cups). Or trim an equal amount of tender green beans and cut into 1-inch pieces. When the pot of gnocchi water comes to a boil, toss in the asparagus or beans, cook 3 minutes, then add the gnocchi and cook 3 minutes more. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a skillet, scoop up the gnocchi and asparagus or beans, and drop them into the pan, then add 1 cup Basil Paste (see below) and enough of the boiling water to make a sauce. To serve, top with 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano or Grana Padano.

Simple Basil Paste
Yield: about 1 cup

    3 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves
    4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    1/2 teaspoon salt

Process all the ingredients with the steel blade of a food processor to a very fine paste. Scrape the bowl occasionally so that all the leaves are puréed.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Lidia's Family Table by Lidia Bastianich (Knopf, 2004).

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