Don't make fun of me, but gnocchi is my Everest. I've attempted it several times before, all without success. The end product was too mushy, not fluffy, or too gummy, and subsequently went straight into the trash. See, gnocchi takes finesse - that special touch it takes to coax out the right texture and consistency (chewy! fluffy!) that makes gnocchi so special.
But, I've finally got it. The key, you see, is to use a potato ricer or food mill to get that fluffiness, and then work the dough enough just to have it come together and not be sticky. Timing matters too, since once the potato is milled, more moisture can escape and subsequently, less flour is needed. It's a goldilocks kind of thing - not too sticky, not too floury, just right. Of course, this takes practice, but the following recipe and pictures will get you there, I'm sure of it.
You will need: (Makes about 2 pounds of gnocchi dough):
- 3-4 Russet Potatoes (small to medium sized)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 heaping cup flour, plus 1/2 cup more to be added incrementally.
First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub your potatoes, then place them in a microwave-safe bowl. Pierce their skins with a fork and microwave for 2 minutes. This process cuts about half an hour off the total roasting time. When the potatoes come out, place them on a baking sheet and stick them in the oven for another 30 minutes, or until they are easily pierced with a fork.
Working somewhat quickly, cut the potatoes up into chunks, skin them, and run them through your ricer or food mill. Since I was using a food mill, I didn't remove the skins completely perfectly, as the food mill will take care of those little bits, but if you are using a ricer, do remove the skins.
Now you will have fluffy bits of potato! Let these sit and cool for about 5 minutes, or until they're not aggressively steaming.
Dig a well into the center of the potato. Crack your egg in there, add the salt, and sprinkle the flour on the outside. Make sure to have another 1/2 cup or so handy. Using a fork (or even your fingers!) beat the egg in the center. Then, incorporate the potato and flour mixture until it just comes together.
Once it looks like that last picture, above, you're ready to get your hands dirty. Reach in and form the dough with your hands. Incrementally add more flour as necessary so that the dough is still soft, but not sticky at all. It should give when pressed upon, and spring back slightly.
Transfer to your [floured] working surface. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut the dough into fourths or eights. Roll them out into ropes, about 1/4 of an inch in diameter. Cut them into little gnocchi pieces.To cook these, gently dump them into a large pot of boiling, heavily salted water. I have a 3 or 4 quart saucepan and prefer not to cook more than 2 dozen at a time, so as not to lower the temperature of the boiling water too much. The key is to cook it quickly and not a second too much, since they are so tender and can easily overcook. Drop them in, and watch them for the 45 seconds that it takes for them to float to the top. Once they have, scoop them out quickly and place them into a warmed red sauce* or pesto. Toss to coat and serve up hot.