Often overlooked as too difficult for home cooks, gnocchi are surprisingly easy to prepare. Instead of thinking of this classic dish as a special occasion restaurant treat, we should embrace it as a simple, elegant family dinner option. That’s particularly true this time of year when there is so much fresh produce available to make the perfect accompaniments to these potato dumplings.
The only special equipment required to make gnocchi is a food mill, although, in a pinch, a grater will do. Other than that, a large pot, salted water, potatoes, flour and an egg are all you need.
Pleasing and delicate
Personally, I love pasta, but I crave gnocchi.
Sensuous and luxurious, these little dumplings or “pillows” are best savored slowly, engaging in an unhurried dance of flavor and texture.
The right pairing of sauce to gnocchi is the cook’s challenge. Complementary flavors are the goal. Just about any ingredient you enjoy with pasta goes well with gnocchi.
From the farmers market, pick vegetables that are in season — fat, ripe cherry tomatoes; sweet corn with kernels colored bright yellow; flat-leafed Italian parsley; plump garlic heads and firm green beans.
A touch of olive oil, seasoning as simple as sea salt and freshly ground pepper and you are done. A dish for which some would pay handsomely has arrived on your table costing a few pennies and requiring very little effort.
Gnocchi With Farmers Market Fresh Vegetables
For best results, cook the gnocchi just before serving. Most yellow or white potatoes seem to work. I have used Yukon gold, fingerling and butterballs, all with good results. Save the peels to make stock or sauté in butter with ham, onions and parsley as a side for breakfast eggs.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Coat the cherry tomatoes in olive oil, seasoned with sea salt and pepper. Place the tomatoes cut side up on a baking sheet lined with Silpat or non-stick parchment paper. Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Remove and set aside.
- Bring to a boil one gallon of water with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Add the unpeeled potatoes. Cook uncovered 45 minutes or until the potatoes have softened enough that a paring knife enters them easily. Drain and let cool to the touch.
- Using a paring knife, peel the potatoes, reserving the skins for later use. Remove and discard any discolored parts.
- Pass the cooked potatoes through a food mill fitted with a disk with large holes, accumulating the softened potato on a large cutting board. Use a grater with large holes if a food mill is not available.
- Make a volcano shape, placing the raw egg in the middle of the potatoes. Dust with 1 cup of the flour and stir well with a fork. Use your hands to complete the dough, gently rolling the mixture until all the flour is incorporated.
- Divide the dough into 3 balls. Sprinkle the cutting board with the remaining flour to prevent sticking. Roll out each of the balls into the shape of a long dowel about ¾-inch in diameter.
- Bring a gallon of water with 1 tablespoon kosher salt to a gentle boil.
- Fill a large bowl with 8 cups of ice cubes and as much water. Set aside.
- Using a knife or a dough scraper, cut the dough into ½-inch lengths. Drop a dozen gnocchi at a time into the gently boiling water. When the gnocchi float to the surface, use a slotted spoon or Asian wire skimmer to quickly transfer them to the bowl of ice water.
- Continue until all the gnocchi are cooked and resting in the ice bath. Drain the gnocchi and toss with olive oil. Use immediately or place in a sealed container and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large frying or chef’s pan, sauté the garlic, parsley, shallots and corn kernels until lightly browned. Add the roasted cherry tomatoes and cooked gnocchi. Being careful not to damage the gnocchi, gently incorporate the gnocchi with the sauce using a silicone spatula. Taste and adjust seasoning with sea salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Zester Daily contributor David Latt is a television writer/producer with a passion for food. His new book, “10 Delicious Holiday Recipes” is available from Amazon. In addition to writing about food for his own site, Men Who Like to Cook, he has contributed to Mark Bittman’s New York Times food blog, Bitten, One for the Table and Traveling Mom. He continues to develop for television but recently has taken his passion for food on the road and is now a contributor to Peter Greenberg’s travel site and the New York Daily News online.
Top photo: Gnocchi with farmers market vegetables — roasted cherry tomatoes, corn, Italian parsley, garlic and shallots. Credit: David Latt