I have a love-hate relationship with pasta-making, but with the passage of time, whatever my last experience was, the idea of making pasta sounds better and better to me. So like a moth to the flame, I come back to it. Plus, it had been so long since I last tried my hand at gnocchi, so it seemed like it was time for me to try it again. Plus, after having the most spectacular gnudi when I was at The Spotted Pig a few weeks back, gnudi and gnocchi have been on my mind. So today, I’ve made a potato and ricotta based gnocchi (and some day in the future, gnudi!).
With gnocchi on the brain, I looked to see what some of my favorite fellow food bloggers had done in the past before my heart was set on this particular rendition from the Zen man. Unfortunately, my wife wasn’t too excited about the pork and greens involved (one of these days!), so I instead made a light basil tomato cream sauce, tossed with crispy leeks and shitake mushrooms to go with the gnocchi.
When I work with any recipe where the dough is truly center-stage, I get stage fright. I worry that I’m going to over-handle the dough–a vague and mysterious term (what is “too much” handling?) that can turn the most spectacular dough into flour-based bullets. Gnocchi is highly susceptible to this since you have flour (so you have gluten) and potato (starch), so I approached it with some trepidation as kneading and rolling the dough just a bit too much could ruin it all.
Much to my delight, nothing of the sort happened–this was the fabled light and pillowy gnocchi! It was tender, airy, and delicious–very much the whole point of home-made, fresh pasta. The gnocchi itself was made of both potato and ricotta and was tossed in a slowly simmered, simple tomato sauce. I didn’t want to do anything crazy with the sauce since I wanted the gnocchi itself to be the star of the show, and all together, it was a very satisfying meal.
- ~4 lbs yukon gold potatoes
- 2.5 cups flour
- 2 Tbsp salt
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- Tomato Basil Cream Sauce
- olive oil
- 1 carrot
- 1 celery
- 1 shallot
- 6-8 cloves garlic
- 1/2 cup white wine
- ~1.5 cups chicken stock
- 1 can whole, peeled san marzano tomatoes (~28 oz)
- handful fresh basil leaves
- ~1/4 cup cream
- 1 leek
- ~4 oz shitake mushrooms
Since the sauce takes time, start on this first. That way, it can slowly simmer while you make the gnocchi (which will take you a while). Begin by finely mincing the shallot, celery, and carrot. Sweat these in a spot of olive oil in a hot pan for about 8 minutes over medium high heat. Add the finely minced garlic and sauté for another minute before you deglaze with the white wine and stock. Crush the whole tomatoes one by one as you add them to the pot.
Drop the heat to low medium and simmer for about 1.5-2 hours. Once done, chiffonade the basil into long thin strips, adding them to the sauce along with the cream.
Meanwhile, finely mince strips of the pale part of the leek and coarsely chop the tops of the mushrooms (discard the woody stems). In a clean pan, sauté these in a spot of olive oil with a dash of salt, giving it roughly 10-15 minutes. Things will look a little mushy for a while as the mushrooms release water, but then later, it will dry up a bit and caramelize a bit (this is what you want). Once crisped nicely, toss these into the sauce just prior to serving.
So while the sauce is simmering away all the while. on to the gnocchi. Begin by boiling the potatoes in water until fork tender (figure that takes 20 minutes, give or take). Drain and peel off the skins while hot. Chop the potatoes into quarters (or so) and spread them out on a baking sheet. Put this in a 400°F oven for 5 minutes to take out some of the moisture.
While the potatoes are still hot, push them through a ricer into a large bowl. Do not even think of using a food processor or a blender or you’ll be making glue.
Meanwhile, in another bowl, mix all of the other dough items (flour, ricotta, egg, etc). Don’t worry about mixing it super thoroughly and making it perfectly homogenous. Work this into the potato. Handle the dough as little as is necessary to make the dough somewhat homogenous. Again, no food processors or anything like that. Roll up your sleeves and use your hands. It won’t take a lot of effort really, so don’t be going at it for 10 minutes or anything like that.
With your dough ready to work with, divide it into 8 pieces. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece out to be roughly 1/2 inch diameter cylinders. If it gets too long and unwieldy, cut it in half. Just like when you were kneading the dough before, try to keep the handling to a minimum (so don’t go balling it up, rolling it out, starting over, etc. Just roll it out and stop).
With your dough rolled out into cylinders, cut them in roughly 1 inch long segments. Press/roll these pieces against the tines of a fork (to make an imprint on the gnochhi) and set them aside as you go.
Once you’re ready to eat, the rest is just like making any other pasta. Get some water boiling and add the gnocchi. I did this in four batches so as not to overcrowd my pot.
With the gnocchi boiling, don’t you go wandering too far. They cook fairly quickly (under 5 minutes), and as I discovered, they do not take kindly to overcooking (my first batch all burst in the pan and formed one gigantic mass of gnocchi. Woops!). Gently stir periodically, and as soon as they float to the top of the water, fish them out. That floating is like a built-in timer for each individual gnocchi so don’t you ignore it!
Finally, with the gnocchi cooked and drained, gently toss it in the sauce and serve. Enjoy!