Having read the headline, some of you are probably mentally throwing schnitzel hammers at me. But just hold onto them for a moment…
The thought of making your own gnocchi may be daunting, but don’t let it daunt you. It’s actually not very difficult to make, but needs a little patience and self-belief. The fact is, there is nothing that taste quite as delicious as home made gnocchi fresh out of the pot. This first time I made these was years ago, after seeing them being made on a TV cooking show. I was amazed by how well they worked. I made these again a few weeks ago, thinking I’d get two batches out of them and freeze one batch for another meal. My family raged against the thought after I served the first round, and insisted that I take the second batch out of the freezer and cook them as well. Fortunately, like all fresh pasta, they cook really quickly.
There are some points to note before embarking on your gnocchi journey. First, the drier the baked potatoes, the better. To this end, in Israel, where potatoes are notoriously watery, the best course of action is to bake the potatoes the day before and leave them in the fridge overnight. This will dry them out.
Secondly, because the water content of potatoes varies from potato to potato, the flour measurements I have here are very approximate. The trick is to slowly add flour, first stirring with a spoon and then using your hands, until your dough just reaches the consistency that will allow you to roll it into a sausage for cutting. But don’t allow it to become too tough – the softer the better.
Thirdly, and this is based on trial and error, popping the gnocchi into the freezer for about an hour before you boil them will make it a lot easier to throw into the pot and will ensure that they don’t fall apart when boiling. They freeze really well, so you can cook them ahead of time and throw them straight into the pot from the freezer. The cooking process is very short, so it will really save you time.
I serve this with a simple tomato sauce and some shaved Parmesan cheese on top. But you can serve it with any sauce you like.
HOME MADE GNOCCHI
3 large baking potatoes
3 egg yolks
1½-2 cups flour (or as much as you need to get to a soft rolling consistency) – use “00” flour, which is available in supermarkets in Israel now.
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (as much as you want!)
How to do it
1. Take a deep breath and believe that this isn’t as difficult as you think.
2. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and place the unpeeled, washed and dried potatoes on a baking tray. Bake for about 1 hour or until completely soft – a fork should very easily slide into a potato. If you have time, allow the potatoes to cool and refrigerate overnight (recommended).
3. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop the potato out of the skin. Place in a bowl and mash until smooth. Add the yolks and salt and mix, and then add the flour, slowly mixing with a spoon until the dough reaches a soft but pliable consistency, and then use your hands to mix (the dough may be a little uneven, and not necessarily completely smooth like bread dough – this is fine.)
4. Divide the dough into four pieces. Dust a rolling surface and a wooden rolling pin with flour, and dust your hands with flour as well. Roll each piece into a long sausage of about a 2 cm (just under 1 inch) diameter. The dough should be quite soft, so be gentle. With a small, sharp knife cut pieces that are about 1 cm long (half an inch). Don’t stress about exact sizes – this is a rustic dish and doesn’t have to look magnificent. Repeat the process for all the dough.
5. Place the gnocchi pieces on trays lines with baking paper and place in the freezer for about an hour (or longer as needed – they freeze well for a few days).
6. In a large pot, bring about 2 liters of salted water to the boil. Drop about half the gnocchi in the water. When they all rise to the surface of the water, remove them carefully with a slotted spoon allowing all the water to drain, and place in a dish. This will take only a few minutes. Repeat with the rest of the gnocchi.
7. Serve with a simple tomato sauce.
Serves about 4.