Gnocchi with Sylvia

A few years ago, in the town where my parents live, a little Italian restaurant opened at the far end of Main Street. The food is quite good, but there is something else that quickly made it my family’s favorite spot in town. This something else is the delightful couple who run the restaurant. Sylvia and Sal are both first generation Italian Americans for which food has been their business since they were children. When you come into their restaurant, Sal greets you at the door. Sylvia is usually in the kitchen but you can count on her stopping by the table to chat at least once during the meal. Sal and Sylvia make you feel welcome, nourished, and appreciated.

Generously, Sylvia took an hour out of a busy Tuesday afternoon a few weeks ago to teach me how to make gnocchi. As I mention in the video, I’ve made gnocchi several times before. Previously, it has seemed quite a time consuming task but under Sylvia’s nimble tutelage, we had little gnocchi ready to go into the pot in under twenty minutes.

Here’s how you do it.

You’ll need a potato ricer, a pot for boiling water, and a pot for cooking the potatoes. A gnocchi board is also useful.

Gnocchi for 4

2 potatoes, peeled

2 cups all purpose flower

Dash of salt

An egg

Boil the potatoes until soft in salted water. You can peel them before or after. When you take your potatoes off the stove, put on a large pot of salted water for the gnocchi to begin heating.

Then, place two cups of flour on a clean surface and create a ring with the flour. In the center of the ring, use the ricer to turn the two cooked potatoes into light fluffy riced potato and add an egg. Sprinkle on a little bit more salt.

Incorporate most of the flour with the egg and potato with a circular movement with your hands. Leave a bit of flour (1/2 cup) aside to integrate as you knead. When the dough begins to form, begin to knead, sprinkling more flour anytime the dough begins to stick to your hands or your kneading surface. Knead by using the palm of your hand to press into the dough making sure to turn the dough so that all sides are evenly kneaded. Knead for approximately 5 minutes until the dough is soft and springy.

Then, form your dough into a nice log and using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into 7 chunks. Roll each of the chunks out into a 1/2 inch wide and about 6-8 inch long snake. Roll, by beginning with both hands on the chunk and rolling it against the counter. Use both hands to roll out in each direction. This will give your roll an even width.

When each chunk of dough has been rolled out, line all the dough snakes up and using a pizza cutter or knife, cut the dough into 1 inch long gnocchi. Toss the little gnocchi with flour so they don’t stick together.

Now comes the fun part of shaping the gnocchi. If you have a gnocchi board, it’s really quite easy. Take a piece of dough and roll it across the board with one finger. Sylvia and I used our pointer finger. She was doing it so fast though, I couldn’t get a good picture so here is a link to a video of someone else making gnocchi with their thumbs. If you don’t have a gnocchi board, Sylvia said that you could just press the dough with your finger against the counter creating a little shell shape without the grooves. This will also be delicious just not quite as pretty.

Then, check on the water that you started at the beginning of the process. The water should be at a rolling boil before you put the gnocchi in. When it’s boiling, put the gnocchi in the water and as they cook, they will pop up to the surface like little fish coming to say hello. When they all have popped up, they are done. Drain them in a strainer and toss with your favorite sauce.

We ate ours with Sylvia’s homemade marinara and parmesan cheese, but next time I’m going to try mine with fresh pesto.

A last note, gnocchi needs to be cooked immediately after it’s made or it can be frozen. But it will get chewy and hard if you leave it on the counter for a few hours so if you don’t plan on cooking it immediately, freeze the gnocchi for future use.

That is all. Enjoy!

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