You know the old to-may-to, to-mah-to debate? I’d say gnocchi trumps it. Ask anyone who adores this pillowy pasta and you’re sure to get a different pronunciation.
There’s the classic (and I’ll even go out on a limb and say correct) pronunciation: nyoh-kee. There’s my husband’s favorite: noo-kee. And there’s my sweet old Italian grandmother’s way (and may I add this woman manages to butcher the name of every Italian meal she makes quite masterfully): ngaw-kee.
No matter how you say it, I think we can all agree that its taste is heaven. What you may not know about gnocchi (which means lump or knot) is rather easy to make. Time consuming, but easy.
So if you have 3 hours to kill and you’re in need of an interesting conversation piece at dinner (because inevitably, putting it on your table is bound to stir up debate about its pronunciation) give this a try:
Gnocchi (Adapted from Mario Batali’s Molto Italiano)
3 pounds russet/Idaho potatoes (po-tah-toes)
2 cups unbleached flour
1 egg, extra large
1 pinch salt
1/3 cup canola or olive oil
In a large pot, boil the potatoes until they’re soft (about 45 minutes). Remove them from the pot, and while they’re still pretty warm, remove the peels and discard. If you have a vegetable mill, pass the peeled potatoes through the mill and onto a clean surface. The benefit of the mill is that it allows the potato to get a little air in it, which makes the gnocchi fluffier.
If you don’t have a mill, just mash the potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Then, if you have a mixer, (I use my Kitchenaid stand mixer) mix up the mashed potatoes to get a little air in them. Make sure you get all the lumps out of the potatoes. If there’s any lumps that won’t mash completely, remove them and discard. Place potatoes on a clean surface.
Form the potatoes into a ball, and make a well in center. Sprinkle all over with 2 cups of flour, making sure to cover the potatoes and the surface around them. Crack an egg and put it and the salt in center of well. Using a fork, mix up the egg and salt, and then blend in the flour and potatoes. Start kneading the ingredients together to form dough, and continue until you’ve formed a ball. Once a ball is formed, knead the dough gently another 4 minutes. You can add more flour if you need to, but after 4 minutes, the ball should be pretty dry.
Divide the dough into six smaller balls. One at a time, take a ball and roll it into a long rope, about 1/2 an inch to 3/4 of an inch thick. Cut the rope into 1 inch-long pieces.
This step is optional, but if you’d like your gnocchi to have those trademark ridges (which are supposed to help hold sauce), take each piece and roll it along the prongs of a fork.
Boil 4 quarts of water to boil in a large spaghetti pot. Fill a large bowl with ice and cold water, and place a smaller bowl inside of it. Place this near the boiling water.
Drop the 1 inch dough pieces into boiling water and cook them until they float. As they rise to the top of the water, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in the small bowl (on top of the ice). Let them cool here while you roll, cut, and cook the rest of the gnocchi.
When all the gnocchi have been cooked and cooled, remove the small bowl from the ice water and toss the gnocchi with oil. Your gnocchi is ready to eat, or be stored in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. (It can also be frozen for up to 3 months…You’ll only need to cook it for about 6 to 7 minutes).
Gnocchi is fantastic served with a variety of sauces. We enjoy ours in a cream sauce, like this one. You may enjoy it on the little-less-decadent side, (if that’s possible with gnocchi) like gnocchi with tomato, basil and olives.