eight months ago, my first attempt at gnocchi ended in a miserable failure: the little dumplings fell apart in the water and i ended up with a pot full of mush. and ever since i've been oh so timid and anxious about trying again. there's nothing like spending a good hour or so on a dish only to watch it get completely ruined in the final minute of preparation. it's a big turn off. [and the reason why i gave up on trying to make cake pops. but that's another story.]
this time, thanks to michael chiarello [anybody else tuning into next iron chef?], i had some pretty darn good homemade gnocchi. granted they weren't as pillowey light as they could be, but they were light years above some dense as a rock gnocchi i've been served in restaurants in the past.
the best part? start to finish took a total of 2 hours - and 45 minutes of that was spent baking potatoes in the oven. and even though michael says to use a potato ricer - which i don't have, since it's a unitasker - i simply mashed mine with a fork. it worked, and i bet the potato ricer would make them even lighter.
gnocchi with kicked up store bought sauce
adapted from michael chiarello's potato gnocchi
2 hours start to finish, 2 hearty adult servings or 4 smaller servings
the original recipe suggests using a potato ricer for the potatoes, i simply mashed them with a fork. if you have the ricer, use it, otherwise, mash them really well and you're set.
don't have a gnocchi board to give them their characteristic ridges? neither do i. simply cut them and leave as is or roll on the tines of a fork. i left them as is and didn't have a problem with my sauce sticking.
for the gnocchi:
1 pound russet potatoes
3 to 4 egg yolks
1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1 cup flour, plus more for dusting
for the sauce:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 pound meatloaf mix (blend of beef, pork, and veal, or substitute ground beef)
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1 celery stalk, peeled and grated
12 ounce jar premade marinara pasta sauce
- preheat your oven to 425F. scrub the potatoes clean, poke them with a fork, and place directly on the racks of your oven. bake until soft, about 45 minutes. let sit for 10 to 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.
- cut the potatoes in half, scoop out the insides into a large bowl, and discard the skins (or eat them later). mash the potatoes well with a fork, making sure there aren't any large clumps of unmashed potato.
- measure out 1 cup flour and have it next to your workbowl, ready to go, but don't add it yet. add three egg yolks, cheese, and nutmeg to the potatoes and season with salt and pepper. using your hands, blend the potato egg mixture well. sprinkle about half of the flour over the potato mixture and fold the mixture on itself in the bowl to blend the flour in. work any dough that's stuck to your fingers back into the dough. add the rest of the flour and continue folding it in until it's incorporated and you have a relatively smooth dough. to see if the dough is at the right consistency, take about a tablespoon and roll it into a rope between your two hands. if it stays together, it's good, if not, fold in more flour, a bit at a time, and try again.
- wash your hands and line a sheet tray with wax or parchment paper.
- divide the dough into four portions. lightly flour your cutting board and roll each portion into a rope about a half an inch in diameter. cut into about half inch long pieces. toss the gnocchi lightly with flour and place on the sheet tray. repeat with the remaining dough portions.
- place the sheet tray in front of a fan set on low for 30 minutes, tossing the gnocchi halfway through.
- while the gnocchi are drying, make the sauce. in a saucepan over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the garlic and meatloaf mix. break up the meat with a wooden spoon and cook until most of the meat is browned. add the carrot and celery and continue cooking until the meat is cooked through. add most or all of the prepared pasta sauce, stir to combine, and bring to a simmer. season with salt and pepper. if your sauce is too thick for your liking, add water about a quarter of a cup at a time, until it's the right consistency. let the sauce cook at a very low simmer while the gnocchi cooks.
- to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to a boil and add salt. drop in the gnocchi and cook for ninety seconds from the time they rise to the surface. drain and toss lightly with olive oil (to prevent them from sticking to each other).
- serve the gnocchi with the sauce and freshly grated parmesan cheese.