Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Ladies and gentlemen, I have just completed my first homemade gnocchi.
Gnocchi, which are usually listed with the pastas on an Italian menu, have a dissimilar preparation to pasta and different ingredients. There are many varieties of gnocchi—spinach, semolina, ricotta, yam—but the standard is gnocchi di patate (potato gnocchi).
Gnocchi comes pre-made in frozen packages, which are totally good…so why did I bother to make my own and undergo that notoriously hard process, you ask? Three reasons:
1) So I could brag about it;
2) Because I’m a sucker for things-from-scratch;
3) Because one time about two years ago I went to try and get a waitressing job at my favorite Italian restaurant (I Coppi), and the smackdown was laid upon me by the manager/owner/chef, who assailed me with a quiz about homemade Italian food.
(Italian accent) “What is the difference between pancetta and prosciutto?”
“Um…pancetta is thicker cut? Cured differently?”
“What is polenta?”
(Now, think about it—how would you answer this question?) “Um, uh…it’s made from corn, it’s coarse-ground cornmeal…goes great with shrimp? It’s like grits, but better.”
“And how do you make gnocchi?”
She seemed exasperated, but at the end of the interview she told me to come back on Thursday. I was so traumatized by the interview (I had just stopped by to pick up an application, after all) that I (embarrassingly) didn’t make it back.
But next time, I’ll be prepared.
It was pretty hard, but not as hard as expected, ultimately. The hard part would have been making the gnocchi look pretty (a step that I didn’t bother with, as it happened). They turned out deliciously, however!
HOMEMADE GNOCCHI WITH BROWN BUTTER AND SAGE
2 lbs potatoes (I used a mixture of white and russet), peeled and sliced into similar-sized pieces
1 beaten egg
2 ¼ cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh sage, whole or chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons grated provolone or fontina cheese
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Boil potatoes until cooked; drain. Mash thoroughly or pas through potato ricer for smoothness. Transfer to bowl. Allow to cool.
Add the egg and mix thoroughly; add the flour and do the same, kneading as it becomes necessary. Always flour hands before kneading. Note: the more you knead, the more flour the recipe will require, and the more leaden the gnocchi will be.
Mix until you have a pliable ball of dough that is lighter than regular pasta dough but doesn’t stick to your floured hands.
Prepare a work area and dust it with flour.
Shape dough into lemon-sized balls and roll them out with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter.
Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about one inch long (this is the part where it gets unpretty).
Using a deep pan or pot with a lot of bottom-surface-area (I ended up using a wok), bring about 3 inches of water to a simmer. In batches, carefully place gnocchi in the pan; try not to let them touch each other, or they’ll stick. Let boil about 3 minutes or until gnocchi float up; remove immediately to slotted spoon.
If you have to do several batches and can’t serve the gnocchi right away, coat the finished gnocchi in a little olive oil to keep from sticking together/drying out.
Once gnocchi are finished, melt better in large pan; cook over medium-low heat until browned but not smoking. Add sage and infuse 1 minute. Pour over cooked gnocchi; season with salt, pepper, and cheeses (be warned: too much cheese makes this dish taste dry).
In spite of messiness and lumpiness, this was super fun and I feel like a real Italian chef now. I’ll show you, I Coppi! Just wait!