Friday, February 07, 2014

Potato Gnocchi (Lombard Style)

-->We have been eager to try our hand at some homemade gnocchi on this Italian Quest. And here we are. This was very much a joint effort between the husband and I, and quite fun to make!
Maybe it's just me, but I always thought the only way to make gnocchi was with potatoes. But then we were looking through our cookbooks and many were made with semolina flour, not potatoes. So then I learned there were multiple kinds. Gnocchi di Patate is more common in Northern Italy and is in fact made by mixed mashed potatoes with flour and egg to form a thick dough that is then rolled out, cut, and boiled. Gnocchi alla Romana on the other hand is made by boiling semolina (think something like polenta) in milk or water, laying out the mash and cooling it, cutting it, and baking it. 

We intended to make both simultaneously in order to compare more directly. But then life got in the way. So we just started with potato gnocchi. It was almost a disaster, and I was sure they would fail and taste awful, but it turns out that these suckers are pretty forgiving, and they still tasted pretty good. This recipe is taken from Silva Sebastiani's Mangiamo, a book we borrowed from some friends.

Beating our potatoes:

Kneading the mixture:

Rolling out the dough:

Cutting the dough:

Boiling the gnocchi. They sink at first...

... and then rise to the top when they're done:

Top them with some homemade pesto, and you have yourself a great comfort meal:

The original recipe:
5-6 large Russet potatoes
1/2 stick of butter (4 tbsp.)
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 tsp. baking powder
4 cups flour
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup grated Reggiano cheese
Salt and white pepper

Peel, chop, and cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender, like you would if making mashed potatoes. Let potatoes cool just a little bit, then transfer to a large bowl and mash.

Mix in butter, eggs, and baking powder. 
Sift in the flour.  Add salt and white pepper to taste. Mix and knead dough until smooth.

Roll out bits of dough into long rolls about one inch thick (or the thickness of your thumb).

Cut into 1 to 1.5 inch sections and press a little indention into it with your finger.

Drop the gnocchi into a large pot of boiling water, a few at a time so they don't stick to each other. When they rise to the top, remove immediately so they don't overcook.

Arrange in a baking dish then drizzle the melted butter and sprinkle the grated cheese on top.

In a preheated oven (350 degrees) bake for approximately 10 minutes until the cheese melts.  Enjoy!

Our thoughts and notes:

The reason we almost had a disaster was because our potatoes didn't mash so well. They felt soft when I cooked them, but then even with a hand mixer they didn't get smooth, so there were small chunks of potato. I thought for sure this would cause problems, and while it did make rolling out the dough a bit more difficult, in the end (after boiling) they seemed smooth. However, we subsequently read other gnocchi recipes that said to use a potato ricer. We don't have one, but we definitely will make sure our potatoes are softer and better mashed next time. 

So this makes quite lot of gnocchi. At least 7 dinner-size portions, maybe 8. We experimented with how to preserve it, and we unintentionally discovered that letting the uncooked portions sit out for an hour after dinner was a careless error on our part. Because, just as cut potatoes turn brown after sitting out, so does gnocchi. But more like gray grossness. So, don't do that. But here are some options:

1) If you want to eat them the next day or two, stick the remaining dough (we had cut them up, but you could probably just leave it in a ball) in the fridge in something sealed right away. This will keep them from turning gray. 

2) If you want to eat them longer than the next day or two, stick the remaining dough in the freezer. We actually cut a bunch up and froze the chunks, and you can boil them directly from the freezer. This blogger says they keep frozen for a few months. We might also try her idea for freezing them, as they do tend to stick together. 

3) The cooked ones reheat alright, but the freshly cooked ones are decidedly better, so if you make this full quantity but won't eat it all right away, do either #1 or #2 for what you won't eat that first night.
We did not do the last two steps in the original recipe, but instead made homemade pesto (recipe coming soon!).

We'd like to continue figuring out way to make them more aesthetically pleasing. The squarish blobs are ok, but I see such pretty ones in restaurants and want to figure out how to do that our next go 'round. 

Buon appetito!

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