Making An Italian Tradition: Gnocchi
Gnocchi, pronounced nyaw-kee, is a classic, mouth-watering Italian dish made with thick, pillowy potato dumplings. Its name originated from the word “nocchio” which means “knot in wood” due to its resemblance to knotted wood. Gnocchi is typically served as a first course and is fried or boiled, then topped with a variety of sauces.
The Perfect Potato
The secret behind the perfect gnocchi is finding the perfect potato that is high in starch and low in water content. Having more water in the dough increases the chance of an unwanted gummy texture. Russet potatoes will suffice, but for a noticeable flavor that isn’t bland, the nutty flavor of Yukon Gold potatoes really stands out against the rest.
Where to Find Gnocchi
You can often experience a gnocchi dish at restaurants, or you can attempt it in your own kitchen with materials that most will have on hand. Classic gnocchi is made with three basic ingredients: potatoes, eggs, and flour. There are several variations that have incorporated olive oil and salt to enhance the simple flavor of the dumplings, but they are not necessary to create the desired consistency.
Making Gnocchi at Home
Cooking the Potatoes
The creation of gnocchi is achieved in a few steps. Potatoes are traditionally boiled unpeeled for a precise amount of time to lessen the penetration of water. Because water is the enemy of a good consistency, some chefs swear by baking the potatoes instead of boiling.
Making the Dough
After the potatoes are cooked and cooled, the skin is removed and the potatoes are mashed or processed using a potato ricer. The goal is to create a smooth consistency with as few lumps as possible. The flour and the eggs are then incorporated into the mashed potatoes and kneaded into a ball of dough. The dough is then separated into ¾ inch strands of dough that are then cut into 1 inch squares resembling tiny pillows.
Rolling the Gnocchi
Typically, each dumpling is indented using a rolling method with a fork or a special board. The dumplings are then placed in boiling water with salt and removed as soon as they float to the top. The indentations help unite the flavors of various sauces such as cheese, pesto, meat, or tomato sauces. Dumplings without indentations are fried with butter and sage and produce a dumpling with a crunchy outer texture and a smooth interior.
Served as a main dish, or as complementing ingredients in soups, gnocchi is a classic Italian dish that you may not immediately think of when thinking of popular Italian cuisine. The unique texture complemented by a flavorful sauce is sure to satisfy a variety of taste pallets. If you’d like to try a taste of authentic Italian cuisine yourself, stop by Italian Garden, located in San Marcos, TX.