According to the New Food Lover's Companion, gnocchi is the Italian word for "dumplings." These dumplings are small and pasta-like and can be made from potatoes, flour or farina. Eggs are often added to the dough to help hold it together and things such as cheese and spinach added for flavour. My gnocchi use potatoes as their base and once boiled they are topped with hot, tomato-based pasta sauce. Serve some crusty bread and a side salad with the gnocchi and dinner is ready.
It takes a bit of time to make gnocchi but the tender and delicious result are worth effort. The gnocchi cooked be made ahead and reheated, see method for details.
Preparation time: 40 minutes
Cooking time: About 70 minutes
Makes: 4 servings
2 lbs. (1 kg) baking potatoes (about 4 medium)
2 large egg yolks
• pinch salt
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups (310 to 375 mL) all-purpose flour
3 cups tomato-based pasta sauce (you choose the falvour), heated
• freshly grated Parmesan cheese to taste
• chopped fresh parsley
Preheat the oven to 375˚F (190˚C). Prick each potato a few times with a fork, and the bake 60-70 minutes, or until very tender. Cool the potatoes 5 minutes; until safe enough to handle but still quite warm. Cut each potato in half and scoop out as much of the flesh as you can into a bowl.
Now push the potatoes through a food mill; thoroughly mash in the bowl by hand with a potato masher; or place in the bowl of your standmixer and mash with paddle attachment until very smooth. Mix in the egg yolks and salt. Mix in 1 cup (250 mL) of the flour until well combined. Lightly flour a work surface and transfer the dough on to it. Knead the dough into a pliable ball that is dry to the touch, incorporating 1/4- to 1/2-cup (60- to 125-mL) more of the flour as needed.
Bring a very large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into quarters. Roll one quarter into a 3/4-inch (2 cm) diameter log. Cut the log into 1-inch (2.5 cm) long pieces. Flour your finger and make a deep dimple into each piece of dough. Roll the non-dimpled side of each piece of dough over the tines of a fork to create ridges, and then set on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Preheat the oven to 200˚F (95˚C). Lightly brush a large baking sheet with olive oil. Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water, in 3 or 4 batches, until they float to the surface, about 2 minutes. Scoop out the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place on the baking sheet. (Gnocchi could be made to this point up to a day in advance. Cool to room temperature, cover and store in the fridge. Reheat in boiling water 1 minute.) Keep the cooked ones warm in the oven while you cook the other gnocchi.
Divide the gnocchi among pasta bowls, ladle over the sauce, sprinkle with the cheese and serve, sprinkled with parsley.