The thought of making homemade pasta has always been daunting to me. Because of this I’ve never tried it. I envision a scenario thinking it’s going to be totally easy, happily starting the process, and then four hours later banging my head against the kitchen counter because I’m only halfway done. I’m sure that’s overstated, but there’s nothing worse than getting into a recipe and thinking you’ll have it done quickly, only to find out you’ll be spending the next several hours completing it and then cleaning up.
I just want to sit down with a glass of wine and watch 15 episodes of Breaking Bad in a row. Is that too much to ask? photo credit
But then I came across a recipe for a dish that involved gnocchi that interested me, and I remembered hearing somewhere that gnocchi is actually an easy pasta to make. I poked around the internet and came across this easy gnocchi recipe from Keepin’ It Kind. Only six ingredients, and the way it read sounded pretty simple.
Turns out it was a bit time consuming, but it was simple. And I think it was only time consuming because the recipe made enough dough for quite a few gnocchi, which have to be cooked in batches. So while it took well over an hour (more if you count the time to bake the potatoes) on my first try, I have a bag of extra gnocchi in my freezer for future use.
Here’s the recipe, but cut in half. This should get you right around four servings, especially if you’re adding other things into your finished gnocchi dish, like sausage, veggies, or beans. And if you want extra gnocchi, double the recipe below, or just make the full recipe from Keepin’ It Kind.
Easy Homemade Gnocchi
- 2 Russet Potatoes
- 1/2 to 1 cup wheat or whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Bake em’ and peel em’.
Preheat oven to 400º fahrenheit. Put cleaned potatoes on baking sheet lined with parchment (for easier clean up), and bake for about an hour, or until the potato is easily pierced with a fork. As the potatoes are getting close to being done, start a large pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
When the potatoes are done, slice each in half (careful, they’ll be hot) and allow to cool enough to handle, but no more. Keep the potatoes as warm as you can. Once you can, peel the skin off the potatoes, throw them in a bowl, and start mashing.
Mash until you think they’re mashed, and mash more.
Now you’re going to mash, and mash, and mash, and mash, and mash some more. You want all lumps gone–those potatoes should be nice and creamy. Want the easy way? Throw them in a food processor. Or you could even use a hand held blender to get them smooth. Once smooth, add the olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Remember, you’re going to add flour next, which will cut the salt, so if you’re looking for a salty gnocchi, add a good amount of salt at this point. But also remember, if your final dish includes a salty sauce and cheese, you may not need that much salt in your gnocchi anyway.
Dough that’s too sticky and needs some more flour (but not much more!).
Next up, add flour by 1/4 cup at a time, and work the flour in with your hands, kneading the gnocchi dough as you do. You want to use as minimal amount of flour as you can to achieve the perfect dough. When done the dough should start to not stick to your hands, but not be dry. If you think you’ve got the right consistency, according to Keepin’ It Kind you can test it by rolling a small piece into a ball and drop it into the boiling water you have going. If it rises to the top without breaking apart, the consistency is good, but you still might want to taste it to see if it’s too gummy. If so, add a tablespoon of flour to the gnocchi dough, incorporate, and drop a piece of the dough in the water again and let rise (once it’s floating at the top of the water, it’s done).
Don’t get hung up if you can’t tell whether or not your gnocchi is too gummy. Once it’s incorporated into a dish it will likely be delicious no matter what.
When you’ve got your dough where you want it, time to divide into a couple chunks, roll it into ropes, and cut into 1 inch segments. You need to do this on a floured surface, as you would with any dough. This process goes by fairly quickly, but traditionally at this point you would “shape” the gnocchi, using fork tines, or a gnocchi board, to create grooves in the dough. This is where I cheated, but you’ll see why.
Cut gnocchi into 1″ segments, and shape if you like.
Once your gnocchi is cut (and shaped), it’s time to cook it! This process goes very quickly, and you need to be prepared for it. Make sure you have a cookie sheet (or two) lined with parchment paper that you can set the cooked gnocchi on. To cook, just drop batches of the gnocchi into the boiling water. They’ll move around in the water for a bit, but once they float to the top and stay for more than a couple seconds, they’re done, and need to come out. Take them out of the water with a slotted spoon, and place on the baking sheet. Make sure they’re not touching (they like to stick together).
Stick a fork in that gnocchi, because it’s done!
That’s it! You have gnocchi ready to be eaten. If you want to store it for future use, you can place the baking sheet in the freezer, let the gnocchi freeze, then place in an airtight container and keep frozen for up to two months. If your freezer can’t accommodate a baking sheet, try a pie tin, but lay down a layer of gnocchi, then layer of parchment, then layer of gnocchi, and so on.
Now, onto the reason I didn’t shape my gnocchi. There’s a favorite restaurant of mine that does something delightful to their gnocchi prior to incorporating it into a dish–they pan fry it. This extra step adds a crispy, brown layer to either side of the gnocchi. When I pan fry it, I smash it slightly, so I figure the grooves are just going to get smooshed anyway. The trick to pan frying the gnocchi is to let the brown crust form before you flip it over, kind of like browning meat. If you don’t let the crust form, the gnocchi wants to stick to the pan, even with plenty of oil in it. When you can easily slide a spatula under the gnocchi, the crust is formed.
Give that delicious golden crust enough time to form.
There you have it. I know it seems like a lot to read through, but this truly is a simple pasta to make, and that final step of pan frying it adds an entirely new element of flavor. Stay tuned for an upcoming recipe using gnocchi I’m writing up for our big brother site, Dappered.com. As soon as it publishes I’ll link to it. In the meantime… eat some gnocchi!