Making Your Own Pasta: Potato Gnocchi

Making Your Own Pasta: Potato Gnocchi

This lesson’s dish is potato gnocchi, a classic Italian dish. There are many varieties of potato, and they vary when it comes to moisture and starch content. The best potato for this lesson’s dish is the Idaho (or russet) potato, which is a low-‑moisture, high-‑starch potato. That type of potato will become fluffy in this recipe.

Potato Gnocchi, Tomatoes,

Green Olives, and Mozzarella

Cooking Method: First Steps
Start with cold water in a pot. Add salt to the water at a ratio of one ounce per gallon.

Put diced and peeled potatoes in the water. (It is important to start cooking the potatoes in cold water. If cooked in hot water, they will cook unevenly.) Bring the water to a boil. Let the potatoes cook for about 25 minutes.

To make the confit tomatoes, place them on a roasting tray and broil them at the maximum temperature possible for a short time. Once they start to blister on the outside, remove them and peel the skin off. Heat oil to 220 degrees and pour it over the tomatoes. Leave the tomatoes and oil at room temperature.

Once the potatoes are ready, take them out, trying to remove as much water as possible. Put them on a tray and then in the oven. Cook them for about seven minutes at 350 degrees. The goal is to dry them out as much as possible.

Preparing the Gnocchi
When the potatoes are cooked, it will be time to mill, shape, and cut the gnocchi. To do that, the necessary tools are a rolling pin, a pizza cutter, a gnocchi palette, a bench scraper, a microplane, and a food mill. A wooden table is also recommended. Put the potatoes in the food mill using the scraper. Before you begin milling, place a small amount of nutmeg on the table. The wooden surface will help absorb moisture. Mill the potatoes onto the nutmeg and table.

Once all of the potatoes are through, scrape the excess off of the outside of the mill. Let the potatoes sit for a minute. Once they have dried and the wood has absorbed some of the moisture, put them into a bowl. Weigh the finished quantity to find the correct ratio for the flour. In terms of weight, you will want a four-to-one potato-to-flour ratio.

Make a well in the middle of the flour. Crack one egg per 500 grams of potato and place it in the well. Also add a small amount of salt, a small amount of oil, and a handful of Parmesan cheese. Begin mixing with your hand, distributing the moisture into the potatoes as quickly as possible, within reason.

Once the mixture is a shaggy mess, take it out of the bowl and mix it on the counter, using both hands. Mix it so that the ingredients stick together, but not so much that it becomes doughy. If it is too moist and sticky, add a bit more flour. Be careful not too mix too much. Perform a finger test: If you poke a finger into the mixture and the finger doesn’t stick, the mixture is ready.

Put flour on the cutting surface. Roll the gnocchi to the thickness of your hand, using a rolling pin and starting in the center. Next, use a pizza cutter to cut the dough into long, straight lines. Remove any pieces you don’t want.

Place some more flour on your cutting surface. Take a piece of gnocchi to an area that has very little flour. Press it into a somewhat rectangular shape, and then roll it into the flour. Repeat with the other pieces.

Once the gnocchi is rolled out, dust each piece with flour. It is time to cut the gnocchi. The amount you cut at a time depends on your comfort zone. Start small with four pieces. Focus on cutting the pieces in an even manner. Remove any pieces you do not like, and then repeat this process for the rest of the gnocchi. With time and practice, the process will become faster and easier.

Shaping and Cooking the Gnocchi
Once the gnocchi is cut, the next step is shaping it. The best way to do this is on a pan. Add a small bit of flour to the pan. Place each piece of gnocchi on the top third of your gnocchi palette, point the palette down toward the pan, and then press and roll each piece onto the pan. The goal is to produce a thumbprint on one side and ridges on the other side of each piece. The ridges will hold sauce. Repeat until you have used all of the dough.

After the gnocchi pieces have been shaped, it is time to cook them. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Keep in mind that a regular gnocchi serving size is 15–20 pieces per person. If you have a pasta basket, you can cook roughly 21 gnocchi pieces in each one. Regardless, if the water is above 205 degrees,the gnocchi will take approximately four minutes to cook. Once they begin floating, cook for another 30 seconds, and then put them on a pan.

Making the Sauce
The next step is making the sauce. Put a small amount of olive oil in a pan. Keep the heat off for now. Next, add shallots. Turn the heat on and cook the shallots until they reach a translucent stage—that is, when water begins evaporating. Once that occurs, add reserved confit tomatoes, using five per portion.

Take the pan off the heat and break the tomatoes apart using a spoon. This will form the sauce, which will emulsify the pasta water, butter, and oil together later. Put the pan back on the heat. Add olives, a pinch of oregano, and butter. Swirl the mixture in the pan to start the emulsion of the sauce. Once the sauce is ready, turn the heat off and wait for the gnocchi to cook.

Final Steps and Plating
Bring the pan of sauce to the gnocchi so that it is away from heat. Put the gnocchi in the pan and return to the heat. Season it with salt and cheese, and then toss the pasta 16 times. This will release starches from the potato and emulsify the sauce.

Before plating, rub the plate with garlic. This will impart the flavors of the garlic on the plate. Next, scatter a bit of fresh mozzarella on the plate. After that, place gnocchi with sauce on the plate. As the gnocchi sits on the plate, the heat will start to partially melt the mozzarella. Finish with Parmesan cheese on top.

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