Guh…Juh… what’s that you say? Pinocchio? No, it’s Gnocchi! If you’ve never heard of it don’t worry, its not exactly a standard household staple just yet. (Not in the US anyway.) Gnocchi (pronounced ‘Nyo-kee’) is an Italian potato pasta that is quickly gaining popularity for it’s delicious flavor and unusual shape. It can be sauteed, baked or added to soup. Basically anything you can do with pasta you can do with gnocchi!
Fresh pasta always starts out as a dough and gnocchi is no different. Gnocchi dough is made by kneading mashed potato with egg, olive oil, salt and flour. The finished dough should not be sticky but very silky and smooth. I use instant mashed potatoes made from potato pearls, as they the perfect consistency. I save myself the work of mashing, and I don’t have a ricer to make super smooth mashed potatoes. The traditionalist would boil a couple russets until super soft, and peel then mash while still hot. The mashed potato needs to be very warm/hot to help absorb the flour and other ingredients.
Then comes the fun! It’s play dough time. The little kid deep down inside gets to come out as you roll the dough into long ‘snakes’ and then cut it into small pieces.
Here’s a fun fact about pasta: It’s different shapes are mean to ‘hold’ different types of sauces. For example, long thin strand pasta like spaghetti or fettuccine is for silky, thin sauces with small bits of food. Tubular or shelled pastas are shaped to hold chunkier, thicker sauces.
Gnocchi have ‘ribs’ or ‘grooves’ pressed into them so that they too can hold pasta sauce. They are very versatile and can be used for thin or thick sauce (ragu). If you find you really like to make gnocchi at home, you can be super authentic and get a gnocchi board (a small hand-held wooden board with grooves that run the length). I’m all about saving money and prefer to use something we all have in the kitchen: a dinner fork.
Something I really love about making gnocchi at home is that I can make a huge batch and freeze them for
later. After rolling ridges into the gnocchi, skip the boiling step and simply lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Pop then in the freezer for about an hour. Scoop them into freezer bags by the handful and you’ve got a great versatile pasta ready to become a fast weeknight meal! When you’re ready to use them, plop them strait into a boiling pot of water, or even spread them out on a baking sheet and cook them in a 350 degree oven for about 8 to 10 minutes for a crispy exterior (which is my favorite way to eat them). I hope you have fun creating these cuties at home. I’ll be sharing my favorite recipe for baked gnocchi in my next post, so make sure you follow my blog so you don’t miss it :0)
This fun potato pasta is delicious with just about any type of sauce and just as versatile as any other type of pasta.
- 2 cups prepared instant mashed potatoes
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup flour
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Place the very warm mashed potato on a heavily floured surface. Sprinkle 1/2 cup flour around the edges of the mashed potato. Add the egg yolk, salt and oil in a small depression or ‘well’ in the center of the mashed potato and begin to incorporate with a fork. When thoroughly mixed, begin incorporating flour into the potato mixture by hand.
- Knead dough, adding more and more flour until the dough is no longer sticky and very smooth and soft. Pull a small handful of dough away and roll it into a long skinny ‘snake’ on your work surface approximately 1/2 inch in diameter. With a sharp knife or a bench scraper, cut the dough into 3/4 to 1 inch-sized pieces. Repeat with all the remaining dough.
- Set a large pot of generously salted water on the stove to boil. With a fork, press and roll dough pieces along the tines (starting at the top and rolling downward) to create ridges all around each piece of pasta. At this point some prefer to let them sit out for an hour to dry and firm up a bit. But they are just fine to cook immediately too. Place the gnocchi into salted boiling water (in batches if needed, so as not to crowd the pot). When they float to the top they are done, so scoop them out with a slotted spoon. Place them in another bowl with ice water.
- When all the gnocchi have been cooked and placed in the ice water, drain the water and drizzle olive oil over the gnocchi or a large spoonful of your sauce and toss to coat. This prevents the pasta from sticking together. Store in the fridge covered with a plate, not plastic wrap, for up to 3 days. When ready to serve, make or heat your sauce, add the gnocchi and warm on the stove top or oven. Serve.
- Category: Pasta
- Cuisine: Italian
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