Easy Gnocchi

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I think I loved gnocchi the moment I tasted my first little potato pillow. I’d been craving potato dumplings. Back in my hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, there was this little restaurant downtown on State Street that sold pelmeni, or Russian dumplings. Some were filled with ground sirloin, and others were filled with potato. Covered with dusting of curry powder and squirts of spicy-sweet Srichara, it was perfect for lunch, dinner, or after a night out at the bars.

But then I moved away to Tucson, Arizona (and sadly, the restaurant eventually closed so when I go home it is no more) and I wasn’t sure where I’d get my fix. Of course I attempted to make pelmeni myself, but I was still growing as a cook then and it turned out pretty disastrous. Before I boiled them the dumplings were about the size of a Superball. Neat little balls of dough filled with mashed potato season and salted. But a few minutes in a boiling water caused them to go supernova. The potato burst out of the dough. The dough quadrupled in size and suddenly I was faced with a pot full of potato bits and doughballs the size of baseballs. I still ate it of course, but needless to say, it wasn’t the same.

Easy gnocchi

This gnocchi is seriously easy to make, especially if you use potato flakes...yes, potato flakes.

Enter Trader Joe’s. Enter gnocchi.

I spotted them in the freezer section (they’ve recently been vacuum-sealed and moved to the past section) and seeing “potato” and “dumpling,” I went in for it. They were pelmeni, but that day another food love affair began. I served them with curry powder and Sriacha. I combined them with kielbasa and vegetables.  Just last night, I cooked them up and served them with a Boursin garlic cheese sauce with grilled portobella mushrooms.

But last night’s dish didn’t involve Trader Joe’s. I’ve gone rogue, you see. I make my own gnocchi now.

In June of 2009 my boyfriend and I went to Rome. On our last night there, my boyfriend’s brother and his girlfriend (who were living in Trastevere at the time) took us for one last great roman meal. We went to the a restaurant in Rome’s Jewish ghetto, a wonderful, dreamy place called Il Giardino Romano where I watched a man peeling crate after crateful of fresh artichokes (we ordered fried artichoke hearts for an appetizer) while we waited for our meal.

I ordered the gnocchi in a fontina sauce, and the first bite I won’t ever forget. Soft. Pillowy. Delicious. Sorry, TJ’s, I love you, but you just don’t compare. Homemade gnocchi, friends, that what I bit into.

So of course, being me, I went home and went to work figuring out how I could replicate this in my own kitchen. There were plenty of things online, but I felt a little more vigilant: I went to the library. I went to Marcella Hazan, aka, our lady of Italian cookery. What Marcella told me about gnocchi I hadn’t seen online. See, most of the recipes I found for gnocchi added one ingredient too many: a binding agent.  While say, an egg, will keep your dough together a little more, the result isn’t the pillowy goodness of authentic gnocchi.

It’s not hard to make it work, though. Just take your time. If rolling the gnocchi off the tines of your fork to make the little grooves isn’t in the cards for you, you can move on. And for those of you really in a hurry, who still want to have homemade gnocchi but balk at baking and then mashing potato after potato…well, you can cheat. You can use potato flakes. I admit it. I’ve done it, and often.

Easy Gnocchi

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

If using potato flakes:

  • 1 cup potato flakes
  • 1 cup boiling water

Directions

  1. Combine warm mash potatoes with 2 tablespoons of butter. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool
  2. Blend in flour, a little bit at a time. If the dough is too sticky to handle, you can add up to a half cup more. Don’t overdo it, or else the gnocchi won’t be as soft. Knead.
  3. Roll into thin rolls about half an inch thick. Cut into bitesized pieces with a lightly floured knife. Roll individual gnocchi off the tines of a fork to create the grooves. The grooves help the gnocchi hold onto sauces. This step can be skipped.
  4. Place a few gnocchi in boiling water. Gnocchi will rise to the top of the water when done. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and continue until all gnocchi are cooked.

Starchy baking potatoes, like Russets, are ideal for gnocchi. Many potatoes can be too waxy (boiling potatoes). This recipe also works great with mashed sweet potato. Try sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage, for instance.

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3 Responses to “Easy Gnocchi”

  1. farfromgruntled Says:

    I made this recipe last night and it was easy and delicious!

    Thanks 🙂

    http://farfromgruntled.blogspot.com/2011/01/adventures-in-food-gnocchi.html

  2. Susan Gainen Says:

    I never met a potato I didn’t like. I can’t wait to try these. Thank you!

  3. Robin Says:

    I’d like to try this!
    When using flakes do you also add the other ingredients, just subbing flakes for mash?

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