Sunday, March 25, 2007

Potato Pillows

I first had gnocchi while I was in grad school many moons ago. A group of us were feeling the need for a nice dinner out; i.e. not diner/deli/bar food, so we went to Filomena's in Georgetown for some pasta!

Someone ordered gnocchi and I was curious and asked if I could try a bit. WOW! Little airy pasta pillows, and these were served in a tomato cream sauce. To Die For! I found out later that they were made with potatoes!

My curiosity was piqued and I wanted to try making them myself. Didn't work! The gnocchi had the right shape, mostly...but when I cooked them, they dissolved in the pot. Bad.

Fast forward to Thursday night, I met up with Sterfanie for a bite before a special documentary film program downtown. We went into the bar at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue for some wine and nibbles. We split the mini-burgers (YUM) and a bowl of gnocchi. (Delish!) So delish...I had to try to make them this weekend.

Lidia's Gnocchi
Lidia's Family Table
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 lb russet potatoes
3/4 tsp salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmiagano Reggiano (my addition)

Making and Shaping the Gnocchi
Boil the potatoes in water to cover until tender when poked with a fork. Don't let them overcook to the point that their skins split. Drain.

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and put them through a ricer or vegetable mill, using the medium disk and letting the shreds fall onto a large baking tray or board. Spread them out, sprinkle on the salt, and let them dry out and cool for at least 20 minutes.

Pour the beaten egg over the potatoes, and then 1 cup of flour. Add the grated cheese if you wsh. Gather the mass together and knead, adding a little more flour as necessary to make the dough hold together. But keep it light; the more you work the dough, the more flour you'll need, and you don't want to incorporate too much or the gnocchi will be heavy and dry. A good criterion: slice the mass in half and examine the texture. It should look like cookie dough pepper with small holes.

Cut the dough into three equal pieces. Roll out each portion into a broomstick about 18 inches long, then cut crosswise into 2/3 inch pieces and toss them lightly in flour.

Take one piece of gnocchi and place it, cut side down, on the tines of a fork, then with your lightly floured thumb press into it, at the same time pushing it off the end of the fork and onto a floured board. The gnocchi should have an indentation where your thumb was, and ridges from the fork tines on the other side. Repeat with all the remaining pieces, cover with a clean towel. At this point, they should be cooked immediately or quickly frozen.

Cooking the Gnocchi

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Drop the gnocchi, five or six at a time, into the boiling water--the larger the pot, the less time they will take to return to the boil. Once they have, cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until they plump up and float to the surface, when done, they will have a softer feel and will no longer thump against the side of the pan as you fish them out with a strainer or slotted spoon. Drop them gently from your strainer into the waiting sauce.

There you have it friends. Go forth and make your own gnocchi!!! This wasn't bad. I wouldn't do it on a weeknight. They do take a little bit of time. The potatoes took about 30 minutes or so to get tender. Then the cooling. I think I had a good 40-50 minutes just doing that?! The making of the gnocchi didn't take too long, but it was messy. I got flour everywhere! But they only took about 2 minutes to cook, which rocked. As you saw in the teaser and the first photo of this post, I dressed my gnocchi in some fresh pesto and mixed in some blanched green beans! Delicious, Filling, Veggie friendly and not bad for you! Starchy, but not to bad on the fat. For the two of us, I only made about 1/2 of the gnocchi, and we were stuffed.

Another note from Lidia's Family Table:
Freezing Gnocchi

Spread the gnocchi out, not touching, on a floured baking pan or whatever will fit in your freezer, and freeze them. When they are solid--in about 2 hours--gather them together, shake off excess flour, and sotre them in sealed plastic bags for future use. They will keep for up to 6 weeks.

To cook frozen gnocchi, do half a batch at a time and double the amount of cooking water. Because they are frozen, the cooking-water temperature drops, and if there are too many in the pot they will disintegrate before the water returns to the boil.


Dancer in DC said...

Yum! They were definitely light, but became filling real quickly. Warm pesto is an excellent sauce!

Stef said...

Yay! I'm glad our night out was an inspiration! I do love a good gnocchi...and pesto sounds yummy!

DC Food Blog said...

I've never had success with gnocchi. What's the secret? Mine end up tasting like pasty matzo balls and not at all light.

ScottE. said...

I think the secret is a light hand with pulling the dough--tee hee--together and not kneading it too much. I brought the dough together with a fork and then kneaded only about 3 turns, then rolled it out.

Lidia says the more you knead, the more flour is needed and they just get icky at that I was really aware of that as I put this together. It was successful!

ScottE. said...

A co-worker just shared a little secret and I wanted to post it here for all to read:

Here’s a secret that you might try sometime that I learned from my 98 year old grandma who was born in Tuscany - bake the potatoes rather than boil them. It makes the dough, and thus the gnocchi’s much lighter and keeps the perfect amount of moisture in the potato. As you know, if you don’t make them right, gnocchi sink in your stomach after eating them making you uncomfortably full. With this technique, it makes them very light!