Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Homemade Gnocchi - A mysterious beast

Excitement is high in the Fo household as I recently completed one of my culinary goals. I made my own gnocchi from scratch. While it's always nice to complete a goal, it didn't exactly turn out how I would have liked. My dreams of light and fluffy potato pillows didn't come true. Despite my fantasies, I am not the person who conquers gnocchi on her first try. I'm more like the person who makes gnocchi and it's totally edible, even tasty, but it gets a C+ from me. Here is my journey. (Insert classical, dramatic music here.) 

(Quick definition if you are unfamiliar with the pleasures of gnocchi, as provided by Wikipidea. Gnocchi is various thick, soft dumplings. They may be made from semolina, ordinary wheat flour, potato, bread crumbs, or similar ingredients. The smaller forms are called gnocchetti. Jackie Fo note #1: Potato gnocchi is the most common for shizzle. Jackie Fo note #2: Gnocchi is pronounced "Nyo-kee.")

After perusing every gnocchi recipe on the web, one day I opened up my Food Network magazine and here it was. The easiest gnocchi recipe I had ever seen.

(Music becomes more dramatic and louder as you wait for recipe to appear.)

First step: Buy a potato ricer. Some folks say it's not necessary and that you can mash the taters with a potato masher, but the ricer was highly suggested. And it was $12 and it gave me an excuse to go to Target. While it looks like some sort of torture device, it was actually quite helpful:

Next bake your potatoes for an hour. Once cooled, scoop out the flesh. (I hate when recipes refer to food as flesh...ummm I don't want to eat something called flesh.) Put the "flesh" in your potato ricer and you will have a pile of this. It looks like rice. Hence, a potato "ricer."

Mix in the appropriate ingredients and mash together with a fork:

 The next step is important and confusing all at the same time. It seems simple enough: Add flour to the dough. Continue to add flour until the dough becomes less sticky. Here's the confusing part: Some recipes call for kneading and some say not to. All the recipes say to make sure you don't add too much flour or the dough will get heavy. Heavy dough is the death of gnocchi. You have to add exactly the right amount of flour to make sure the dough doesn't stick, but not too much or the dough will be heavy. It's impossible I say. To knead or not to knead? To flour or not to flour? What's a girl to do?

Here is the dough with potentially too much or too little flour:

The next part of the process is really fun but super time consuming. Separate the dough into eight pieces and roll it into skinny logs of dough. Skinnier than what I did below. After reading more about the process, I am realizing the gnocchis should be smaller. Anyways, after you roll them out (just use your hands and me sure to flour the surface really well), cut into pieces.

Lay the gnocchi flat on a baking sheet and stick in the freezer until ready to cook. I put wax paper down and floured the wax paper to make sure the gnocchis didn't stick. Don't layer on top of each other, they will clump together. 

Paired with the gnocchi, I made a roasted red pepper sauce. This was actually really, really yummy. I got the recipe from Epicurious, but modified it by adding some regular tomato sauce to balance out the sweetness of the roasted red pepper. Be careful with the Parmesan. I tried to put in a little bit and ended up pouring in half the container. Yikes! Should have called it Parmesan Roasted Red Pepper Sauce. 

Also, don't use your mini food processor for this. Due to my complete lack of common sense regarding spatial relations, I thought I could fit all of the ingredients into this: 

When you stuff everything in, it will overflow, like so. And this orangey red color dyes  your counter top quite nicely. So that's fun to clean up. I personally enjoy breaking a sweat while cleaning up after dinner, but maybe you don't.

The finished product: 

It looks pretty tasty, doesn't it? And it was. The sauce was perfection; I suggest making it (without a tub of Parmesan!). It was the gnocchi that were ... simply adequate. While they were cooking, they didn't completely fall apart, but some of the gnocchi didn't stay quite together. I suffered the curse of most first time gnocchi makers - they were heavy and potato-ey. Sort of like I accidentally made the dumplings that go with chicken n' dumplins as opposed to Italian potato dumplings. Still delicious, but not light and airy as I had hoped. So, what was the culprit? It could be many things ... the flour content, the size of the gnocchi, the cooking time, I can't be sure. I assume like most things it just takes practice. 

Here are some good links with gnocchi making tips:

So I will try, try again. It was fun and at least I got to wear my favorite apron, bought straight from NYC's Little Italy:

(Insert laugh track.)

Does anyone have any gnocchi tips or a good recipe? Please share and help me conquer this mysterious beast.


  1. the blender explosion made me laugh out loud, or "lol" for short.

  2. I am going to get my mom's gnocchi's recipe for you. She makes the best I've ever had. And I've eaten A LOT of gnocchi's. Its what I always ask for on my birthday.

  3. I love the blender! SOOO something I would do! I remember helping make gnocchi growing up with my Italian bff's family... I mainly was stuck on the push your thumb and roll them work center lol

    hugs! Kim @ http://frostmeblog.blogspot.com
    party inspiration

  4. Great (and funny) post! Love the apron.

  5. i'm impressed that you even tried! i love gnocchi...

  6. I have no gnocchi tips to share, but I did love your post as it made me laugh. It sure looked like that sauce was going to fit didn't it

  7. I could eat bowl after bowl of gnocchi, but have never tried to make it myself. I'm a wuss. HA!

  8. I too made this recipe from my magazine! It was fun, but made too much! now following, found you through the rosebud network!

  9. love the blender! saw that recipe in the food network mag as well-- inspired me to make gnocchi. stepped it up a notch: attempting to make SWEET potato gnocchi today w/ ricotta. taking a long time to get dough to the right consistency... but it's worth it! taste great w/ sage butter sauce