Mastering the art of homemade gnocchi. Photo by Neco Garnicia | SXC.
Make Perfect Gnocchi With These Professional Tips
CAPSULE REPORT: Love gnocchi but fear making it? Italian chef Massimo Salatino shares tips from the Old Country to make it easy for the home chef. Francesca’s serves traditional potato gnocchi with a variety of sauces as well as the ancient presentation of “naked gnocchi” made with fresh ricotta cheese.
Tips For Better Gnocchi
In the repertoire of classic Italian pasta, the delicate, fluffy pillows of gnocchi (NYO-kee) are unique. Yet making good gnocchi can be quite a challenge. Chef Massimo Salatino from Francesca’s Restaurants in Chicago shares tips from years of experience working writhe this pernickety pasta.
Chef Salatino says, “Making gnocchi is all about touch. It’s important to pay attention to the consistency of the dough to ensure the light, fluffy pillows that melt in your mouth. I also have a few secrets that I’ve learned from working in Italy to make gnocchi even more rich and delicious.” Here they are:
- Pick the right potato. Use russet potatoes; they’re nice and starchy and will help bind the dough together.
- Bake, don’t boil. Most gnocchi recipes instruct to boil the potatoes. Instead, bake them to add even more creaminess to the gnocchi.
EXTRA TIP: Don’t throw away the potato peels! Make a nice salad with the skins, assorted greens, extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Flour the dough by feel. It’s important to watch how much flour you add to potatoes. Too much flour will make them doughy and rubbery; too little will cause them to fall apart in the boiling water. The dough should be somewhat like the consistency of Play-doh.
Francesca’s Restaurants has grown from a single location on Chicago’s North Clark Street in 1992, to 19 locations throughout the Chicago area. With a focus on fresh ingredients and seasonal dishes, the restaurants serve rustic Italian cuisine in a a sophisticated, trattoria setting. Stop by for some gnocchi when you’re in the area!
- 2 pounds of russet potatoes
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour*
- 1 egg, lightly beaten*
- Pinch of salt (preferably sea salt,
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Sauce: Light tomato sauce, pesto,
or butter and grated cheese
*Measurements approximate; you’ll be adding egg and flour until you reach the right consistency. This is how you make perfect gnocchi. See steps below.
Tine marks from a fork give gnocchi a rustic look. Photo by Emiliano Spada | SXC.
- Preheat oven to 300°. Toss the potatoes in extra virgin olive oil with salt and pepper and bake for 1 hour. Peel potatoes when they are lukewarm, and put through a ricer.
- Place the riced potatoes in a bowl. Make a well in the center of the riced potatoes and sprinkle with 3/4 of the flour. Place egg and salt in center of well and using a spatula, stir and fold them into the potatoes. It will yield a light crumble.
- Once the egg is mixed in, kneading the dough very gently into a ball. Add more flour, as needed, until the dough is the consistency of Play-doh.
- Roll the dough into logs about the diameter of a dime. Instead of trying to roll out a big loaf of dough, first flatten the dough to about 1 inch thick and cut into strips; roll out the logs from there.
- Cut each log into 3/4" pieces (the gnocchi) and use the back of the fork to pinch the sides of the gnocchi. This gives the gnocchi a rustic look and provides ridges for more sauce to be absorbed. This takes practice:
- Lay the back of the fork against the working surface, holding the handle up so that the top edge of the tines are lifted slightly off the surface. With the other hand, place a gnocchi against the tines of the fork, cut ends out, and use your thumb to lightly press it against the length of the fork. This should curly it into a slight “C” shape and leave tine impressions across the back. This step takes some practice, so don’t worry if your gnocchi are irregular at first—they’ll still taste delicious.
- Set aside and repeat with the remainder of the pieces, dusting with four as needed until ready to cook. with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them.
- Cook the gnocchi in boiling salted water; they will float to the top when they are finished. Remove with a slotted spoon.
- To store gnocchi, cool (you can use an ice bath for several minutes, then drain) and toss with canola oil. Store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours.
Gnocchi tips copyright Chef Massimo Salatino. All rights reserved. Other material