Sunday, October 2, 2016

I say potato, you say potahto, so lets make GNOCCHI!

Gnocchi is one of the easiest pastas to make.  It can be made with flour or even ricotta, but the Napolitan style is made with potatoes.

It is hard to give an exact recipe because there are so many factors; The size of the potatoes, the relative humidity, and how much water the potatoes absorb in the cooking process.  For about 2 pounds of potatoes, (use a starchy potato like a russet) you will need about 2-1/2 cups of all purpose flour.(plus more for the surface)  You will also need 1 large egg or 2 medium.  A teaspoon of salt and a 1/4 teaspoon of pepper, white if you have it.

Boil the UNSKINNED but scrubbed potatoes until done. Skinned potatoes will absorb too much water! Remove from pot and rinse with cold water until cool enough to handle, but still very warm.  (cold potatoes do not rice well:)  Rub off the skins and cut small enough to put through ricer or food mill.  While still warm, spread out on a floured working surface, cover with a dish towel so it doesn't dry out, and allow it to cool. When cool, form into a bowl shape with a well in the middle, crack the egg(s) into the well, sprinkle on about half of the flour, the salt and pepper, (many Italians add about 1/4 tsp of freshly ground nutmeg) and start to mix it together.  A pastry scraper works well here.  Keep mixing in more flour until the pasta is dry enough to handle.  Begin kneading the pasta and adding more flour until it is no longer sticky.  The more you knead it the tougher the gnocchi will be, so be careful!

When paste is ready, form into about 4 balls and let sit for a few minutes.  Take the first ball and cut into 3-4 pieces and roll it into a ball and then begin to flatten it out on a floured surface with the fingers of both hands until it is like a breadstick about 1/2" thick.  Cut diagonally into segments about 1" long with a knife or pastry scraper.  Do this with remaining pasta.  Take each segment and roll on gnocchi board or the back of a fork, making grooves on on side and an indent with the thumb on the other side.  Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and lightly floured.  

They can now be frozen if needed.  Leave on the baking sheet until frozen and then you can put them in plastic bags to store in freezer.  

If you are cooking them right away, bring salted water to a boil and drop in the gnocchi. The amount depends on the size of your pot, but no more than would cover the surface area of the pot at one time. They are done when they float to the top.  Remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in a bowl.  Coat them with a little of the sauce so they don't stick together while the rest of them cook, or toss them with a little olive oil.  Be careful when mixing in the sauce, fold it in gently so you don't smash or break the gnocchi.

Gnocchi is a very heavy meal and a small amount, 8-10 segments is a good serving size for most people.  It goes well in colder months with heavier tomato sauces with Italian sausage, onions and mushrooms.  It also goes well with any pesto.  In cooler months you can just add garlic sauteed in olive oil,( add some red pepper flakes for a kick) browned butter with sage or even some olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

To make a classic red sauce, dice very finely one small onion, grate one stick of celery, removing stringy parts, and finely grate or chop one carrot. The French call this a mirepoix, in Italian," La Sacra Trinita'."    Add 2 Tbs olive oil to a pot over medium heat.  Add 2 or more cloves of minced garlic.  Allow to release fragrance but not to brown.  Add the trinita' and cook until soft and onions are translucent. Add about 2 tbs tomato paste and stir with veggies until the paste is cooked through.  Add a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, crushed diced or pureed depending on the texture you want.  Bring to a slow boil.  Add 1 tbs dried basil, 1/2 tsp dries oregano, fresh or dried parsley, a pinch of red pepper flakes, 1 tbs. salt and 1 tsp freshly ground pepper.  Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least an hour, stirring on occasion and scraping the bottom so nothing sticks.  If you want to add sausage or mushrooms, cook them separately and add them to the sauce when it begins to boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste

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