Gnocchi, Information Preparation and Tips
General Information About Gnocchi
Gnocchi a food often pronounced in various ways (know-kee, nock-ee, or even yo-kee by some) is a onethat spans the gap between dumplings and pasta. The basic gnocchi ingredients are simple, flour and potatoes. Most gnocchi is made with egg and cheese to make the final result a bit more flavorful creamy and light. Gnocchi are basically small flour dumplings that can be prepared in a multitude of ways. They can be boiled, fried or steamed and flavored with what ever combination of flavors you can think of. The final result is a variation of the type of potatoes, flour and other ingredients you include and thus gnocchi are a great friend to any chef with a limber mind and the motivation to make fresh pasta. While gnocchi for many peoples seems like something that is difficult or time consuming to make the truth is make fresh delicious gnocchi is very simple, rewarding and an easy way to impress guests or customers.
- 3 lbs Whole potatoes, Idaho or white potatoes work well
- 2 Large eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon White Pepper
- 1/3 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese, Very finely grated
- 2 Cups Unbleached Flour, or more as needed.
The preparation of gnocchi is very similar to that of a fresh pasta. The ingredients are mixed, kneaded, formed and them portioned into the particular shape and size that you wish.
The first step in making gnocchi is to cook your potatoes and remove the skins. They can either be boiled or baked until tender all the way through. The traditional way to prepare potatoes for gnocchi by boiling is to leave the skins on to prevent ecess moisture in the potatoes and boil the whole potatoes. Once the potatoes are cooked the skins are removed while warm. Baked potatoes can be cut in half lengthwise and the potato scooped from the skin. Boiled potatoes lend to a more firm dense gnocchi, as they retain more moisture and require more flour, and baked potatoes result in a fluffy dumpling like gnocchi. Firm gnocchi is good for sauce heavy dishes while light fluffy gnocchi is appropriate for dishes with less sauce.
Once the potatoes are cooked and skins removed, they should be run through a ricer or food mill. Do not put the potatoes through a mixer or use the blade of a food processor as the dough will come out much too heavy this way. If you do not have a ricer or ricer attachment the potatoes can be carefully grated on a box grater, or you can smash them through the holes of a metal colander (very easy and effective and best done while the potatoes are warm). I actually prefer using a metal 'china cap' or colander method as I feel it produces the best texture in my gnocchi.
In a small bowl whisk the eggs, salt, and pepper together. Put the potatoes in a large bowl and add in the egg mixture, mix until the potatoes are coated and add the cheese and flour then knead very lightly until you have a light sticky dough. Keep adding flour until the dough is firm enough to not stick to the bowl and can be formed by hand. Don't be afraid to just dump in most of the flour, the less kneading you do the less heavy the gnocchi will be.
A few things: Ideal dough should be much softer than pasta dough, should roll out easily, and not stick to your work surface. The finer you grate the cheese the easier the dough will be to work with. Chunks of cheese make gnocchi difficult to roll as they tend to break the dough apart, and will lead to exploding gnocchi when you cook it. Run the cheese through a food mill if you have to, I always make sure to use the finest setting on the box grater when I prepare the ingredients.
Roll the gnocchi dough out into half-inch thick ropes. Then cut the dough into half inch thick slices and form into balls. The finished balls of gnocchi should be about a half inch in diameter. To form the traditional way, hold a fork so that the tines bend away from you. Using your thumb 'spear' a ball of gnocchi and roll it along the bend of the fork tines. The dough should wrap around your thumb and ridges should from from the pressure of the tines. Gently place the gnocchi on a sheet tray line with lightly floured wax paper.
Alternatively, and my preferred way to form gnocchi is to form balls a half inch thick. Holding the fork so that the concave side is facing up ,I place the bottom of the tines on the gnocchi and pull down and toward myself with moderate pressure. The gnocchi will roll until the top of the tines dig into the dough and make a divot. The end result is not as pretty as the traditional method but is many times faster, and if you are making gnocchi for a restaurant or for a large party will save you a lot of time.
Forming gnocchi is an art in itself, don't be frustrated if the first time you try to make gnocchi is comes out varied and ugly. Once you understand the process you'll be forming beautiful gnocchi very quickly. One of the joys of homemade gnocchi also is the inconsistency . A little variation in size shape even texture lets you know the pasta was made by hand not in a factory, and that there was definitely a lot of love that went into the preparation.
Once formed, the gnocchi can be cooked, or frozen. Gnocchi is most often cooked by boiling, but they can also be pan or deep fried for a not so healthy but delicious treat. Cooking fresh gnocchi should only take a minute or two in boiling water. Frozen gnocchi will take a a few more minutes. Cooking gnocchi requires paying attention since the cooking time is so short. The gnocchi may or may not float when cooked depending on the consistency of the dough. To test for done-ness I remove a piece of gnocchi and cut in half. if the center is a wet and runny , the gnocchi is not finished.
Once the dough is cooked all the way through you can toss the gnocchi into your sauce or dish before serving .I don't recommend adding gnocchi to a sauce for the last few minutes of cooking like a pasta. The gnocchi will release a lot of starch in its last minute of cooking, and will make the sauce 'set-up' if cooked in it. This leads to a thick lumpy sauce that will not adhere to the food as nicely.
When making gnocchi there are like pasta an amazing number of variations and uses. Adding fresh herbs, different cheeses or using other types of potatoes will create unique flavorful gnocchi that can be paired with an endless number of ingredients. Gnocchi can be cooked and tossed with vegetables or cheese and served as a chilled salad or antipasto.
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