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Perfecting Gnocchi


Crunchboy
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Gnocchi is one of those foods that can be great or horrible.  When its good, its light, soft and almost creamy, and when its bad its like tasteless lead sinkers.  The strange thing about it is that it contains only 3-5 ingredients (potatoes, flour, salt, and maybe egg and/or some nutmeg).  It looks so easy to make, yet I can't seem to get it right.

Almost everything I've read says you want to use as little flour as possible, and to do so, you've got to allow as little water as possible into the potato.  You also have to use floury potatos such as russets.  While I've tried baking and boiling the potatoes, using a masher and a ricer, with egg and without egg, I can't seem to get it right.  

Does anyone have a tried and true recipe or know what I'm doing wrong?

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It's difficult to diagnosis the problem without seeing or tasting your results. For a master recipe, I refer you to Mario Batali's in "Simple Italian Cooking". We experimented with other root vegetables - rutabaga and parsnips - and found that it was really crucial to dry out the veggies as much as possible, which meant about 45 minutes in a dry pan - after initial cooking!

Hope this helps, at least a little.

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To Liza's very good reference, I would add Marcella Hazan's. She gives clear directions for forming correct gnocchi - with an indent on one side, and tine marks on the other. This is functional in trapping the sauce, as well as traditional and attractive.

The potatoes have to be as dry as possible. I think it was chef Collichio who suggested baking them on a goodly layer of salt. In any event, baking is much better than boiling, and, obviously, potatoes with as little moisture content to begin with as possible.

Who said "There are no three star restaurants, only three star meals"?

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To Liza's very good reference, I would add Marcella Hazan's. She gives clear directions for forming correct gnocchi - with an indent on one side, and tine marks on the other. This is functional in trapping the sauce, as well as traditional and attractive.

Marcella's Classic Italian Cooking has a recipe that works.

I make very light pillows and I owe it to her recipe and watching lidia Bastianich give a demo.

I wouldn't worry about classic form until you get the tendency to 'glop' out of the equation.  I don't use whole eggs I use 2-3 yolks per 5, 70 count Idahos.  But remember that the more egg, the easier to handle.  However they will get denser.   I don't strictly rice.  Use a Mouli, not a potato ricer.  (one of those stainless steel handcrank jobs).  Riceing too fine contributes to the tendency to glop. Use the next courser set of holes than the ricer plate.

Flour a board and roll out like Play-Doh (just like when you were a kid).  Cut into small pillows and let 'em rest (in the fridge).  Give 'em a flash freeze.  Not enough to get 'em solid, but enough so that they're easier to handle.  So time it for just before you want to cook them.

Hope this helps

Nick :smile:

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i played around with gnocchi quite a bit and found that it's a lot like pie dough ... it's a touch/technique thing. i don't use any egg, it makes it dense. i steam a floury potato, rice it onto a board and spread it to allow as much evaporation as possible. add just enough flour to let it stick, then quickly knead it into a mass. roll it into a rope and then cut the rope into sections. if you work it too long, it will get gluey. if you use too much egg it will get gluey. you'll know by the feel right when it comes together.

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Try roasting the potatoes on a salt bed instead of boiling them and they will be not be nearly as moist. Also try to use semolina to seperate them after they are rolled and they will stay seperate. When you are ready to cook them keep the water just under a simmer so your poaching them instead of boiling them. A little olive oil in the dough also gives them a better texture.

good luck

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One more thing.  

I find steaming the potatoes in their jackets cuts down on the moisture content.  I relize that most people don't have a commercial low pressure steamer.  I wouldn't know where to begin to improvise one.

Nick

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  • 1 year later...

OK -- the wierd part first. For Shabbas dinner I am making an Italian menu in honor of St. Joseph's Day. My wife has always wanted to go to a SJD banquet, but, for one reason or another, we never have. (I went to some awesome spreads in NY while in college.) This year SJD is on Shabbas, so I decided to make her a traditional SJD Shabbat dinner.

The menu:

A vegetarian vegetable soup, light, tomatoey broth with peas , carrots, lovage, a bit of shredded cabbage, diced tomato, haricot vert, and a little cress dropped into the bowl just before serving.

Caesar salad. The last of the really wonderful anchovies I brought back from New Orleans.

Fettucine tossed in a bowl with mascarpone until it melts, then drizzeled with pesto.

Gnocchi baked with a mushroom marinara, lots of grated parmesan grata on top.

Grean beans sauted with garlic, then braised with tomato, oregano and white wine.

Zeppole.

Cappachino -- I have a manual frother for the milk, which I will keep warm in a metal pitcher in the low oven.

OK -- so you are wondering what I need help with. It all seems so straightforward. But a question shot into my mind on the way to work today, and it won't go away.

Because of the strictures pertaining to cooking for the Sabbath, I want to have the gnocchi in a warm oven before Shabbat begins. I made the gnocchi a few weeks ago and froze them. (They are really outstanding gnocchi. The best I've ever made.) Do I boil the gnocchi, remove them to a gratin, cover with marinara and cheese, then put in the oven? Or do I put the gnocchi directly into the gratin and preceed without boiling them? Help!

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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Adian, are these potato gnocchi? Have you frozen them successfully before?

Also, how long do you plan to have them in the oven? Potato gnocchi are very delicate and temperamental. I wouldn't think that they'd hold up well to extended baking, and would likely turn into mush (especially given the disturbance of being frozen).

Have you thought of maybe making gnocchi di semolina? This is a traditional Abruzzese dish, and is always baked. I would think that the semolina gnocchi would hold up quite well to freezing, and you could easily just toss the frozen gnocchi into a baking dish, sprinkle with cheese, etc. and throw it into the oven.

--

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Saint Joseph's day, also known as San Giuseppe is the traditonal day of Saint Joseph, just like Saint Patrick and Saint Andrew and all those other guys have their own day. It is quite traditional in Italy to have more of a celebration on your name day (i.e., St. Joseph's day if your name is Joe) than your birthday. San Giuseppe is a very big deal in Southern Italy, and especially in Sicily. I'm going to be making sfinci this weekend as my nod to the tradition (deep fried dough lumps filled with sweetened ricotta, etc.).

--

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Sam:

I have frozen them before. They are potato with a small amount of semolina for stability.

They won't be in for long -- about 45 minutes. And I made the sauce quite thick so it won't waterlog the dumplings.

I thought about dropping the frozen gnocchi into boiling water for one minute, just to take the chill off of them, and then transferring them to the gratin. Sorta bar-boiling them. What do you think of that?

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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I thought about dropping the frozen gnocchi into boiling water for one minute, just to take the chill off of them, and then transferring them to the gratin. Sorta bar-boiling them. What do you think of that?

Were the gnocchi cooked before you froze them?

--

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In my experience, "gnocchi di patate" require the right potatoes and need to be fresh to get truly convincing results. Of course, they are heavenly, but I've eaten them too many times in Italy, thus my consuming standards are higher than my cooking abilities.

I think the suggestion of Samuel with gnocchi di semolino (or alla romana) are the best choice if you plan a gnocchi gratin. They offer an excellent ReturnOnInvestment and are a sort of convenience food. I usually pre-prepare them in the morning.

I admire you courage, though.

Make it as simple as possible, but not simpler.

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Saute them! This is the method Thomas Keller recommends, and it's worked great for us. When we make gnocchi, we make a zillion, boil them all, freeze them (cookie sheet, etc.), then crank up the FoodSaver. To reheat, you saute the little darlings in a bit of olive oil with whatever else. Gnocchi with garlic, little cherry tomatoes, and basil were what I ate all last summer. I know that browned gnocchi aren't strictly traditional, but they're delicious. And I think if you saute them first, you won't end up with a pan of mush (as you might if you just baked them frozen.)

Let us know how it turns out!

agnolottigirl

~~~~~~~~~~~

"They eat the dainty food of famous chefs with the same pleasure with which they devour gross peasant dishes, mostly composed of garlic and tomatoes, or fisherman's octopus and shrimps, fried in heavily scented olive oil on a little deserted beach."-- Luigi Barzini, The Italians

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Saint Joseph's day, also known as San Giuseppe is the traditonal day of Saint Joseph, just like Saint Patrick and Saint Andrew and all those other guys have their own day.  It is quite traditional in Italy to have more of a celebration on your name day (i.e., St. Joseph's day if your name is Joe) than your birthday.  San Giuseppe is a very big deal in Southern Italy, and especially in Sicily.  I'm going to be making sfinci this weekend as my nod to the tradition (deep fried dough lumps filled with sweetened ricotta, etc.).

Just one last bit of clarification.

We are talking about Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary.

Joseph of Arimathea (the guy in whose tomb Jesus was buried following the crucifixion) is forced to share his day with Saint Patrick.

Happy Saint's Day to me!!!

JoePW

edit for fat fingers

Edited by JPW (log)

If someone writes a book about restaurants and nobody reads it, will it produce a 10 page thread?

Joe W

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I have used batches of frozen uncooked gnocchi --- take un-boiled frozen gnocchi from the freezer, boil until they have just started floating, remove and coat in a little butter or oil, add sauce/cheese/etc and bake.

Best to use a sauce that is not too wet. I have never had my light fluffy gnocchi dissolve to mush during baking (though I haven't tried baking beyond about 25mins). The recipe I use includes some egg and a little flour. The egg helps the gnocchi hold their shape better, without necessarily compromising texture.

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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FYI the big deal about Saint Joseph's day in Italy.. is that it is FATHER'S DAY!

We all eat fried rice fritters, had to sample several yesterday, from several pastry shops, the best I had were from Ivana's Forno on via del ariento in Florence, filled after frying with a light lemon infused pastry cream!

I also suggest just reheating the gnocchi in a skillet in a little of the sauce.

But is the whole SAbbath thing that you can't actually cook.. but reheating is ok

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Thank you all for your help.

Dinner was an unqualified success. Even the gnocchi, which I was threally worried about. Especially when our dinner guests were 30 minutes late!

I boiled them just until they started floating, then drained them and transferred them to a warmed gratin. I didn't add more oil. I covered them with my saice -- very thick and rich -- dosed them with cheese, then popped them into a 250 oven.

When we dug into them, I thought they were a loss -- but they were these airy, light, magnificent pillows which had absorbed the flavors of the tomato, olive oil, garlic, and mushrooms. We were all quite pleased with them.

Thank you all again for your assistance.

I think we'll make St. Joseph's Shabbat a regular on our calendar@

Aidan

"Ess! Ess! It's a mitzvah!"

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Adian, are these potato gnocchi?

I don't mean to get off topic, but what is the definition of "gnocchi"? I've seen recipies entitles "gnocchi" that include neither flour nor potato.

-- Jason

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I don't mean to get off topic, but what is the definition of "gnocchi"?  I've seen recipies entitles "gnocchi" that include neither flour nor potato.

"Gnocchi" is essentially an umbrella term for a wide range of small (and not so small) dumplings. Most of these also have a local or more specific name. Those made of potato are the default form of gnocchi for non-Italians, but varieties include ones made of pumpkin/squash, ricotta, bread, semolina, or chestnut flour. It's worth noting, too, that the potato gnocchi are a more recent dish than some of the others, especially those made with root vegetables such as pumpkin/squash.

Duncan

Edited by lamington (log)

-- lamington a.k.a. Duncan Markham

The Gastronomer's Bookshelf - collaborative book reviews about all things food and wine

Syrup & Tang - candid commentary and flavourful fancies

"It's healthy. It's cake. It's chocolate cake."

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