THE POTATOES GNOCCHI
The history of potato gnocchi began when the first potatoes from the American continent were imported into Europe (Christopher Columbus `1492).
It is a typical dish in Italian cuisine and in some regions such as Lazio, it is said that the popular tradition was to eat them on Thursdays. In fact, the Christian religion has always suggested that Fridays should be eaten meatless, therefore very light, and so on Thursdays a substantial meal such as potato gnocchi was used. Other types of gnocchi first appeared at Renaissance banquets in Lombardy; they were kneaded with breadcrumbs, milk and chopped almonds and were called zanzarelli.
- 1 pound 2 large Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed
- Fine salt
- 1 scant cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 large egg yolk
- Semolina flour, for dusting (optional)
- 3-4 cups of sauce, for serving
- Parmesan or Pecorino cheese, for serving (optional)
HOW TO MAKE THEM
Boiling the Potatoes: Position the potatoes in a deep pot or saucepan, arranging them in a single layer. Fill with water until covered by a minimum of 2 inches. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Partially cover and boil until the potatoes are entirely tender, approximately 25-30 minutes. (This is an opportune moment to prepare your sauce.)
Draining and Slicing: Drain using a colander placed in the sink. Employ a paring knife to make an incision in the potatoes, allowing steam and moisture to escape. Allow them to rest until sufficiently cool to handle (not cold), around 15 minutes.
Potato Ricing: Sprinkle a small quantity of flour onto a tidy work surface. Peel and quarter the potatoes. Pass them through a potato ricer onto the flour-dusted surface. Create a well in the center of the riced potato mound. Let the potatoes cool until they are mildly warm.
Incorporating the Yolk and Flour: Scatter the scant cup of flour around the periphery of the potatoes. Introduce the egg yolk into the well, followed by the salt. Using a fork, beat the egg and start blending it with the potatoes. Continue mixing with a gentle touch, eventually integrating some of the flour around the edges. Switch to a dough scraper and commence cutting the flour into the potatoes until a crumbly mass forms.
Resting: Transition to your hands and delicately press and pat the mixture into a soft ball. It should feel soft and pliable, slightly tacky, and possess a "shaggy" or rough texture rather than smooth. If the dough is excessively soft and sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour. Avoid overworking the dough or incorporating too much flour. Cover the dough with a bowl or clean towel and let it rest for a few minutes, no more than 10. Clear away any adhered bits from the work surface.
Preparation: Line a rimmed baking sheet with a pristine kitchen towel and sprinkle with semolina or all-purpose flour. Have a gnocchi board or a fork ready. Dust your work surface with a bit of flour and keep a bowl with additional flour nearby. Slice off a piece of dough, roughly the size of a tangerine (about ¼ of the dough). Rolling into Ropes: Use your palms to roll out the dough into a rope, approximately the thickness of your finger (¾-inch). Repeat the process with the remaining three pieces of dough. Lightly flour the ropes and use a knife or dough scraper to cut them into ¾-inch nuggets. Roll each nugget, one by one, down the gnocchi board or the tines of the fork. Use your thumb to guide them downward, creating ridges on one side and a groove on the other. Transfer the shaped gnocchi to the baking sheet without them touching. Apply flour to your workspace and fingers as needed to prevent sticking. Continue until all the gnocchi are cut and shaped. You should have around 120 gnocchi.
Drying: Allow the gnocchi to air-dry for 30 minutes. While they rest, bring a large pot of water to a vigorous boil and season with salt. Have your sauce heated and ready before cooking the gnocchi.
Cooking the Gnocchi: Spoon a small portion of sauce into your serving bowl. Once the water is boiling, carefully place the gnocchi into the pot. Cook in batches to prevent overcrowding. Within 30 to 45 seconds, the gnocchi will start to float. Taste one; it should be airy and tender but thoroughly cooked, with no raw flour taste. Using a large skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to the serving bowl and gently toss with sauce. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi, adding them to the bowl and tossing with more sauce as needed.
Serving: Distribute the gnocchi among your serving bowls. Spoon additional sauce on top and season with freshly grated cheese if desired. Enjoy!