Gnocchi is part pasta, part dumpling, patently potato -- in other words, it's the perfect food! Gnocchi is pronounced "NO-key" but you have to say the "no" with your tongue far back on the roof of your mouth and us your nose to say it. But who cares how it's pronounced; it's so delicious!
It's also a great family cooking project. Don't do it when you're in a hurry (like me, tonight). Do it ahead of time and freeze them for a day when comfort food is of the highest order. Here is my favorite gnocchi recipe followed by 2 simple and perfect sauces:
3 russet potatoes, baked
1-3/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
Salt to taste, I probably add 1/2 a teaspoon
While the potatoes are hot, peel them then rice them or mash them. (If you don't know what a ricer is, just mash them with a fork). Then spread them out and let them cool off a bit. It's best to wait until they are not steaming.
Add to the potatoes the flour and the egg; stir as lightly as possible so as not to make the potatoes too starchy.
Then working with a handful at a time on a lightly floured board, shape into a rope (remember play-dough?) about 3/4" thick and using a thin, sharp knife, cut into 3/4" lengths.
When all are cut, you are going to use a fork to give them the classic gnocchi shape. Flatten your hand, palm side up, and place a piece near your finger tips. Now hold a fork with the "rump" up and press the gnocchi off your palm with the tines of the fork, sort of rolling it. Now you gnocchi should be long and ovalish with nice divots for collecting sauce. Press pretty hard and let them fall back to to board.
At this point, you can freeze them by laying them out on a sheet pan (on waxed paper), cover and collect into a bag when frozen. Alternately, you can refrigerate them on the same sort of tray up to 48 hours.
Bring a wide pan of salted water to a boil; using a straining spoon, lower the gnocchi into the water, cooking a half-batch at a time. When done, they will float to the top (about 2 minutes). If frozen, this will take up to 3 minutes. Using the strainer, remove them when done and add them to your prepared sauce.
Our favorite sauce is a Sage and Butter sauce we originally got from Cook's Illustrated Italian Classics.
It couldn't be simpler:
Melt 8 Tablespoons butter in the microwave or a saucepan
Finely chop 10 sage leaves; add to the hot butter
Finely grate 2/3 cup parmesan (plus more for passsing)
Sauce the gnocchi as it is removed from the water, add the cheese when all the gnocchi is in the bowl.
Second favorite: Gnocchi allAmatriciana. I found this recipe in Family Circle. I've linked it here for you. Our main change was that we subbed in basil for the thyme. My people are not thyme people. Do not substitute the pancetta or you will lose some of the authentic Italian flavor. This is sauced then baked 20 minutes which gives you plenty of time to make a quick salad or have a glass of wine. We had this one for dinner tonight. It was lovely.
I know -- by now you are thinking, that sounds like a lot of trouble. Make the gnocchi ahead and it will be a breeze and I promise, it is completely worth it. It is like eating potato clouds. Can't wait to hear what you think!