Here’s another one of my Nonna’s great recipes. These simple pasta pillows consist mainly of potato and are all you’ll ever need on a cold and rainy day. I’d seen these done by my grandmother time and time again but had never attempted the recipe myself. After phoning my Nonna, the best I was able to get was a loose list of ingredients and the following directions: “Knead until you get the right texture…but you’ll need to make it harder than you think you want it.” OBVIOUSLY!
Off I went with my first attempt. I won’t bore you with that story. It was a long and disappointing ordeal which ended with great looking gnocchi that weighed a ton, tasted like wet flour and felt like dense soft wax. I ate the bowl and threw the rest away. The recipe below is a culmination of my Nonna’s recipe and some additional education provided by Cooks Illustrated and other online sources.
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup of all-purpose flour + additional amount when manipulating dough
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp of salt
Peel and cut the potatoes into even cubes. Place in a large pot of water (lots and lots of unsalted water) and boil the potatoes until cooked through. Strain the potatoes and leave in the sieve for 5-10 minutes until they’ve reached room temperature. Using a masher or ricer, pulverize your potatoes until they are free of lumps. Add your egg/salt and mix with a wooden spoon until smooth.
IMPORTANT NOTE: This is where you need to trust the recipe and ignore anything you’ve ever learned or witnessed when making dough. Over-kneading and too much flour are your enemy.
Add the flour to the potatoes/egg and mix with a wooden spoon until the flour has been absorbed and a rough dough is formed. Empty onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently for approximately 1 minute, adding flour whenever the dough gets sticky. The picture below shows the final product in comparison to the earlier, over-manipulated & over-floured version.
Cut the dough into eight even pieces. One at a time, gently roll out the dough on the lightly floured surface until you have a snake roughly 3/4″ in thickness. Use a knife to cut in your desired size gnocchi. Move to a lightly floured baking sheet and avoid having the gnocchi touch each other.
In a large pot, bring copious amounts of water to a boil and salt. Transfer gnocchi into boiling water one serving at a time. They can be removed with a slotted spoon after the gnocchi have risen to the top (approx. 60-90 seconds). Transfer to a serving dish and mix in Nonna’s pasta sauce and a generous amount of grated romano cheese and fresh ground pepper to taste. The final product is unbelievably hearty yet delicate. Enjoy!