Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need. …………………………………………………..~Julia Child
Thank you, Etruscans, for teaching the Romans to make pasta. In an Etruscan tomb in Italy near Cerveteri, there’s a mural that shows servants in a kitchen mixing water and flour on a large table with all the familiar pasta-making equipment ~ a ladle, a rolling pin, a cutting wheel.
In a fragment of a book from 1300, there is a recipe for gnocchi written in Tuscan dialect.
Wikipedia claims that the word gnocchi comes from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood or from nocca, meaning knuckle. My Italian dictionary, the same one that saw me through Italian I, II and III, gives the English translation as dumpling or blockhead. Blockhead?
The most intoxicating fall cooking is warm, comforting and fresh.
Me and my potato pillows ~ we’re fast friends.
Just like me and my teacher.
It helps to have some kitchen skills. And a Kitchen God. Chef Frank is a guy who loves all things culinary. A pasta chef worth his semolina, he has the chops to teach me how to make gnocchi ~ from scratch.
The dough rests under a bowl for a while and the family rests on chairs around the table, sharing kitchen wisdom and sweet mouth-memories. We’re here to make gnocchi ~ the Italian pasta that is part of who we are and where we are from.
The ingredients for basic potato gnocchi couldn’t be simpler.
Flour. Potato. Egg. Salt. (recipe below)
When hands do the work, it’s like being back in Nonna’s kitchen.
We incorporate the flour as thoroughly as possible without working the gnocchi dough too much, just until it feels like pizza dough. Not a pizza maker? Then squeeze your earlobe gently between two fingers. How sweet is that.
We form the dough into a log, then take a small hunk, roll it into a rope about 1/2-inch thick and cut it into thimble-sized dumplings.
I’m not a fan of one-trick-pony kitchen gadgets, but for gnocchi, I make an exception. Here’s the glamourous new star in my kitchen ~
A slight nudge with your thumb, a gentle prod and a roll down the board.
Now for the moment of truth. In salted water that’s at a fierce boil, we drop our darlings in a few at a time so they don’t stick together. After only a few minutes, the gnocchi float to the surface. Done…
… and ready to eat with a butter and thyme sauce.
The result? A meal worthy of a standing ovation. Unquestionably worth the time and effort required to pull it off.
Be forewarned ~ a second helping is inevitable. 🙂
Gnoccchi Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis
4 to 6 servings
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 (1-pound) russet potato
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1/4 cup King Arthur all-purpose flour
1/4 cup shaved Pecorino Romano
Cook the butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium heat until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the thyme leaves. Set aside.
My Note: Chef Frank brought a ricer. Move over, gnocchi board.
Pierce the potato all over with a fork. Bake. While warm, cut the potato in half and scoop the flesh into a large bowl; discard the skin. Rice the potato, mix in the salt and pepper and egg. Sift the flour over the potato mixture and knead just until blended.
Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece between your palms, then on the work surface into a 1/2-inch-diameter rope (about 20 inches long). Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece of dough over a gnocchi board with ridges.
My Note: These French mats are perfect for rolling the dough and keeping the gnocchi safe until cooking time.
Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling salted water until the they rise to the surface, about 1 minute. Continue cooking until the gnocchi are tender, about 4 minutes longer. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the hot thyme-butter in the skillet. Toss to coat. Spoon the gnocchi and butter sauce into shallow bowls. Top with the Pecorino and serve.