The word "gnocco" in Italian means a little lump, which describes the shape of gnocchi. Like so many dishes based on the simple ingredients of the poor,
gnocchi were originally made with only flour and water. Potato gnocchi recipes traditionally start by boiling the potatoes. However, baked potatoes don't seem to
absorb as much flour and therefore are not as gummy. The key to making delicate gnocchi is to add as little flour as possible but enough to keep the dough
together. The essential characteristics of gnocchi are that are light and fluffy, whether they are made of potatoes, ricotta, semolina flour or bread and spinach, as
in the recipes that follow. Gnocchi take well to many sauces, such as Bolognese, Gorgonzola, pesto, or butter and sage. They can also be layered in a baking
dish, topped with melted butter and parmesan cheese, and broiled to brown.
4 medium-size baking potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 to 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Bake the potatoes in a 350-degree F. oven for 1 hour. Peel and mash or rice them.
In a bowl, combine the eggs, salt, nutmeg, and parmesan cheese.
Add the mashed potatoes. Add the flour, a little at a time, until a dough forms and holds together. The dough should be soft but firm enough to roll.
Dust the work surface lightly with flour. Knead the dough just enough to form a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 4 or more parts and shape each into a sausage-like roll about 1 inch in diameter. Cut the roll into pieces 3/4 inch long.
To shape the gnocchi, hold a fork with the concave (top-side) facing you.
With the index finger of your other hand, press the dough piece just below the top of the fork. Pull down toward the fork's handle and allow the dough to roll over on itself. The pieces should have ridges on one side formed by the tines of the fork and a depression on the other formed by your finger. *
While working with gnocchi, dust your hands and work surface regularly with flour. Place the formed gnocchi on a lightly floured surface.
Cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water 2-3 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove and mix gently with your desired sauce.
*Alternate Methods to Form Gnocchi:
Take each piece of dough, press and roll it against a cheese grater or a gnocchi board to give it a nice design and texture.
Potato Gnocchi with Fontina
Ingredients as for Potato Gnocchi above, with the addition
of the following topping:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
4 ounces Fontina cheese, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups traditional tomato sauce (optional)
Follow the recipe for Potato Gnocchi above.
After boiling, transfer the gnocchi to a baking dish.
Preheat the broiler.
In a small saucepan, heat the butter until lightly browned. Pour over the gnocchi. Add the fontina slices on top and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.
Place under the broiler 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and begins to brown. Serve with tomato sauce on the side, if desired.
1-1/2 pounds ricotta cheese
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg and 1 egg yolk, beaten together
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Place the ricotta in a strainer over a bowl.
Place in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours to drain excess liquid from the cheese.
In a bowl, combine the drained ricotta, flour, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir gently until a soft dough forms, adding a little more flour if it is too sticky. Dust your work surface with flour.
To form the gnocchi, use a teaspoon to scoop up about a 1-inch ball of dough.
Use another spoon or a floured finger to push the dough off and shape into a smooth oval. Place the formed gnocchi on a lightly floured surface. Cook the gnocchi in boiling, salted water 2-3 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove and mix gently with your desired sauce.
Roman Baked Semolina Gnocchi
4 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg
1 cup semolina flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
4 ounces ham or prosciutto, cut into strips (optional)
In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat the milk just to the brink of a boil.
Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Slowly pour in the semolina, constantly whisking to avoid lumping. Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and stiff. Stir often and scrape the bottom of the pan to avoid sticking.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon butter until completely melted. Stir in 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese and then the egg yolks. Mixture should be well blended and smooth.
Moisten a 10 x 15-inch baking sheet; this keeps the dough from sticking.
Using a wet spatula, spread the semolina mixture evenly onto the baking sheet.
Let cool completely, about 40-50 minutes.
Position a rack in the upper part of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
Butter a baking dish, about 9 x 12-inch.
Using a round cutter 1-1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, cut out rounds of the semolina mixture. Place the rounds in a single layer in the baking dish, overlapping them slightly like roof shingles. Pour the melted butter over the gnocchi and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese. If you are adding the ham strips, spread them on top now and dot with butter. Bake until the top is golden, about 15 minutes.
Note: The gnocchi can be made in advance and refrigerated. Bake just before serving.
Bread and Spinach Gnocchi
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 onion, finely chopped
12 ounces spinach, cooked, squeezed dry, and chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
3-4 cups stale Italian bread, crusts removed and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter.
Add the onion and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the spinach and garlic. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow to cool.
In a bowl, combine the bread, flour, eggs, 2 tablespoons cheese, salt and pepper, and mix well. Stir in the spinach mixture. Let stand 30 minutes to allow the bread to soften.
To form the gnocchi, wet your hands to prevent sticking. Shape the mixture into ovals about the size of small eggs. You should have about 16 gnocchi.
In a pot of boiling, salted water, cook the gnocchi about 12 minutes.
Drain the gnocchi and transfer to a serving platter. Melt the remaining butter and pour over the gnocchi. Top with the remaining cheese. Serve.
Gnocchi in Brodo
To serve gnocchi as a soup, prepare either the Potato or Ricotta Gnocchi.
You can use canned beef broth or, for a more traditional dish, try our recipe for Brodo di Carne. Bring Brodo di Carne or beef broth to a simmer. Add the gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi float to the surface. Serve in individual soup bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage
(Serves 10 to 12)
You can also use pumpkin puree or roasted butternut squash in place
of the sweet potatoes.
2 pounds sweet potatoes
12 ounces ricotta cheese
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2-1/2 to 3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter
6 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper
Rinse sweet potatoes and pat dry. Pierce all over with a fork.
Microwave on high, about 5 minutes, or until tender. Cut in half and allow to cool. Scrape the potato flesh from the skin into a bowl and mash. You should have about 3 cups. Add ricotta, Parmesan, brown sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Blend well. Add flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a soft dough forms. The less flour that you need to incorporate the more tender the dough will be.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Divide into 6 equal pieces. Form each piece into a 20-inch long rope about 1-inch in diameter. Sprinkle with flour if the dough is too sticky. Cut each rope into 20 pieces. Roll each piece over the tines of a fork to indent. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the gnocchi until tender, about 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a plate and allow to cool.
(Gnocchi can be made up to 4 hours ahead and kept at room temperature.)
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Cook until the butter starts to brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add chopped sage, and season with salt and pepper.
Remove half of sage butter and set aside. Add half of gnocchi to skillet and sauté until heated through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with remaining sage butter and gnocchi.
Gnocchi with Spinach and Ricotta
This is a rich, flavorful dish but with a creamy, delicate texture.
Make your own potato gnocchi or purchase them pre-made.
1 pound potato gnocchi
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
15 ounces fresh spinach
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
2/3 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Black pepper to serve
Preheat a broiler. Butter a baking dish.
Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain.
In a large skillet, combine cream, flour, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the mixture by half, about 2 minutes. Add spinach in handfuls, and cook until wilted. Remove from heat. Stir in the cooked gnocchi.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Spoon the ricotta cheese over the gnocchi in large dollops.Sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top.
Place the baking dish under the broiler until brown and bubbling, about 4 to 6 minutes. Season with pepper and serve.
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Fully illustrated step-by-step instructions for rolling, shaping, and stuffing dough for gnocchi, lasagna, cannelloni, pappardelle, tagliatelle, ravioli, and dozens of other styles of pasta. Recipes for pasta doughs made completely from scratch, with such delicious ingredients as buckwheat and whole wheat flour, roasted red pepper, asparagus, and even squid ink and chocolate.
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