Gnocchi and Potato Noodles



One day I was browsing through a gourmet cooking magazine when I came upon their recipe for gnocchi–two full pages of instructions in tiny font.  For some crazy reason I was undaunted and told my husband I’d like to try making gnocchi, handing him the magazine recipe.  He looked at it and laughed.  This is the Foodie way of making gnocchi, he said.  He went on to say he would show me an easier, faster way of making gnocchi.

For some reason gnocchi, a pasta made from the modest potato, has acquired a reputation for being difficult to make.   Using the methods described in this recipe, it is quite easy.  If you enjoy kneading bread dough, you will enjoy making this recipe for gnocchi or noodles–however you decide to slice it.  Heck, even if you don’t enjoy kneading bread, you might like making gnocchi because the dough is more pliant than bread dough and easier to knead.  Of course, you can also prepare your dough in a heavy duty mixer using the dough hook attachment.  I do either, depending on my mood.

This recipe makes quite a bit.  If you decide to halve the recipe, use two eggs.  (Since eggs are an important binding agent, better to have a little more than not enough.)  However, cooked gnocchis freeze very well so you can always make a big batch and freeze some.  I used half my dough to make gnocchi and half to make noodles.

Potato noodles

Okay, now I am going to let my husband, who has made this dough many more times than I, explain how to make it.

Recipe for Gnocchi and Potato Noodles Makes ~ 16 servings.
3-5 potatoes, depending on size (enough to get 5 c. cooked potatoes)
3 c. AP flour + more, as needed
4 T. unsalted butter
2 pinches o’ salt
3 eggs

In a 425 degree oven, bake your potatoes until they are cooked through (i.e. no resistance is encountered when pierced with a fork), about 30-45 minutes.

Gnocchi dough is best made when the potatoes are as hot as possible so, as soon as you can, remove the skins and do one of the following to the potatoes:  rice them, put through a food mill (in this instance you don’t need to peel them because the skin will not pass through the food mill), or mash them very, very, very well and push through a fine-mesh sieve.

Measure out 5 c. riced potatoes.  Throw them onto a clean, heavily floured counter.  Make a giant pile out of the potatoes and using your hand carve out an indentation into the top of the pile.  Into this divot, put the Flour, Butter, Salt and Eggs.  Collapse the sides of the pile into the center and begin to knead.  (You could also do this first step in a bowl and then move to a counter once ingredients are mixed in.)

You are going to be kneading for a while, just prepare yourself.  At first you will notice a giant, sticky pile of goop that sticks to your hands and you will ask yourself ‘How the heck is this going to turn into anything besides mashed potatoes?’  Don’t worry, just add more flour, like a lot more.  Add the flour 1/4 to 1/2 c. at a time, thoroughly kneading it in before adding more.  You may use as much as 3 c. flour total.  Sprinkle some onto the counter, some on top of your pile of potatoes and keep kneading.  The dough will get less sticky.  Keep adding flour.  My tip is to just fill a large bowl with flour and have it handy.  Keep adding handfuls of flour to the dough and the counter as this sticky mass of dough keeps sucking it up.  Eventually, you will have a dough that doesn’t really stick to the counter, isn’t all that tacky, and when you lightly press the top of it, the indentations push themselves out pretty quickly.  Knead the dough about ten more strokes.  Pinch some of the dough and lightly tug it towards you, if the dough fights you and then snaps back onto itself when you let go, it is ready!  Cover the dough and let it rest for about five minutes.  This step isn’t completely necessary, but by this step I could use a break.

While you are resting your weary wrists, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  How much salt, you might ask?  If you’ve ever been to the ocean, that’s what the water should taste like.  If you haven’t, you should go, it’s breathtaking.  Also, get a large bowl of ice water handy.

For gnocchi:  Cut off a chunk of dough and roll it out like you were making a snake out of play-doh.  Then take either a bench knife or a butter knife and cut the snake into 1/2 to 3/4 inch sections depending how big you want your gnocchi.  From here you can go one of two ways.  You can take your gnocchi and put them in boiling water until they float, then drop them into the ice water to prevent them from cooking further.   Or, if you want to be all fancy schmancy, you can take a fork and press down on one side to make some nice tine prints.  This looks really pretty, and if you are serving them with some sort of sauce it makes tiny pockets to fill with deliciousness.

For noodles:  On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/16-inch thick.  Using a pizza cutter or bench knife slice your noodles to whatever width you’d like, finger width works well.  Cook in boiling water until they float.

After the gnocchi (or noodles) are blanched, toss them lightly in olive oil and from here you can either freeze them or put them into the refrigerator.  My favorite way to eat them is to saute them in butter until they are golden brown and then toss them with parmesan and olive oil.  A rich tomato sauce is also good.  Serve them however strikes your fancy!

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