We are having an Italian feast this evening! I have the most lovely godmother, Norma Jean. We would stop at her house after Sunday morning mass. While my father and godfather had a beer and a shot, I would sip coffee and milk, mostly milk, from a milky white espresso cup. I think the grown ups simply drank their morning brew, but I ate and ate lemon cookies. I SO wanted to be Italian! Sorry Dad, but it’s true! If we stayed long enough, I could help her run her homemade noodles through the pasta machine and maybe throw the bay leaves into the gravy! In honor of my favorite godmother, we are having braciole over homemade gnocchi this evening! Maybe I should end this delightful meal with an Irish coffee for my dad!!
2 lb russet potatoes (about 4 medium)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 oz) all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
Start with 2 pounds of russet potatoes. Poke each of them 8 times with the tip of a paring knife. Microwave until the ends of the potatoes have slightly softened (flipping the potatoes halfway through) – it’ll take about 10 minutes total, though all microwaves are different, so yours might take slightly more or less time. Transfer the potatoes to the oven (place them directly on the rack) and bake until a skewer glides easily in and out of the flesh, about another 18-20 minutes.
Remove the potatoes from the oven and immediately start peeling them with a paring knife. They’ll be hot (obviously) so hold them with a potholder or kitchen towel. Transfer the peeled potatoes to a potato ricer (or food mill). If you don’t have a ricer or food mill, I’ve read that mashing by hand will work, but haven’t tried it myself to confirm. Process the potatoes through the ricer (or food mill) onto a rimmed baking sheet. (I lined mine with parchment for easier cleanup.) Spread the potatoes in an even layer on the baking sheet and allow them to cool for 5 minutes.
Transfer 16 oz of the warm potatoes to a bowl. You’ll have a bit of leftover potato – don’t be tempted to add it. Top the potatoes with the lightly beaten egg and use a fork to stir just until combined. Add 4 oz of flour and 1 teaspoon of salt and gently mix into the potatoes just until no pockets of dry flour remain. The dough will not have come together, it’ll look crumbly.
Gather the dough into a rough ball in the bowl. Transfer the ball to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 1 minute, or just until smooth. The dough should be slightly tacky, but if it’s sticking to the work surface as you knead, you can add a bit of additional flour. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment and dust liberally with flour. Divide the dough into 8 pieces – don’t worry about making them all exactly the same size. Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll it into a long rope about 1/2-inch in thickness. Add flour to the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking. Cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces.
You can leave the gnocchi as they are and cook them just like that, but if you want to shape them so they have the traditional ridges, keep reading 🙂
To shape them, all you need is a fork. Hold it with the tines facing down, and with one piece of dough at a time, press down with your thumb and roll the dough down the tines of the fork and over your thumb. You want to be assertive, but gentle as you do it. One side of the gnocchi will have the ridges and the other will have a small indentation (both are good for catching sauce!). If you have forks that are different sizes as we do, I found the longer ones were easier to use. It’ll take a little bit of practice to figure out this shaping, but once you do it’s really easy – promise!
Meanwhile, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water. Cook the gnocchi in two separate batches – each will only take about 90 seconds. They will float to the top after about 1 minute and should be firm and cooked through when they’re done. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi to the skillet with the sauce. Repeat with the other half of the gnocchi. Gently toss them with the sauce and serve.