Greg and I recently traveled through Italy for three weeks. I ordered gnocchi half a dozen times. Five out of six times, what arrived at our table had clearly originated from a vacuum-packed, commercial gnocchi supplier...and with good reason. A batch of fresh gnocchi can take up to an hour to prepare.
At one point in our journey, we found ourselves in the charming and non-touristy town of Padova, AKA Padua, just outside of Venice (see video above - three weeks footage of our trip, and it took me almost a year to pots one clip!). After a long day of traveling in cold, drenching rain, we stumbled into a little inn that was a block from our hotel. Greg eagerly ordered the spicy clam linguini, and I hesitantly pointed to the gnocchi. The spicy linguini was the best we had on the trip (or ever since), and the gnocchi were amazing: sized like scallops and drenched in an artichoke puree, I felt like I was eating light, pillowy clouds. Commercial gnocchi are not exactly better or worse, they're just different. At least once, it's worth the time to try making gnocchi at home!
Photo credit to Greg, somewhere in Domestic Bliss (?) , CT
1. Slice two large russet potatoes. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook until a knife inserted in the center slides out easily. Alternately, bake the potatoes. Peel and let cool for a moment.
2. Push the potatoes through a ricer
3. Mound the potato shavings and make an indent in the center, in which you should place 1/2 to 1 well-beaten egg. Sift 3/4-1 cup flour on top.
4. Knead the dough lightly, adding extra sprinkles of flour as necessary (up to an additional 1/4 cup). The dough should not be sticky, but it should feel light, soft, and a little pillowy. Like Play-doh. If you can roll it into tubes without it sticking to the board, it's firm enough; feel free to add more flour to make it firmer.
5. Roll sections of dough into logs
6. Cut the logs to the desired size
7. Form the gnocchi. Drop into salted boiling water and cook until they float to the top. Gnocchi are best served with thin, clingy sauces (eg, herby pesto, a non-chunky marinara, brown butter and sage, or something creamy).
A note on how to form gnocchi: using a gnocchi board (picture), or the tines of a fork, lightly press the gnocchi to form ridges. Method (a), in the photo above, I used my index finger to create ridges on one half and smoosh the other side into a orochietti shape. Method (b), use the palm of your hand to quickly roll a segment of dough down the board. The dough turns into a tube (gemelli shape) , and this is how I made all of the gnocchi pictured at the top. Alternately, refrigerate large tubes (1" diam) and slice with a knife into scallop sized pieces.
Would you believe me if I said these gnocchi were too pillowy? These gnocchi were so soft that they lacked definite bite, and they didn't quite hold up to the quick red sauce I prepared. Slicing the gnocchi into large, scallop sized pieces about 1" around cured that problem. Alternately, and probably a better option, add a full egg (I only added half of one) and a little extra flour to create a firmer dough. This will make the gnocchi much easier to work with. Test a few pieces of gnocchi in boiling water as you go in order to find the right size gnocchi or amount of flour (this is really the only way to be sure you like the texture).