Monday, June 22, 2009

Recipe: Potato Gnocchi and Quick Meat Sauce

Tonight, I made potato gnocchi, which are basically little potato dumplings. As I was making them, I thought they'd be great in a yummy chicken soup, but tonight I added them to a simple meat and tomato sauce.

2lbs russet potatoes (about 4 medium), scrubbed
1 1/2 cups flour, plus some for kneading and rolling
1 tsp kosher salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Put the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil over med-high heat. Reduce heat to medium, partially cover, and cook until the potatoes are tender and easily pierced with a fork, 30-35 min.2. Drain the potatoes, let them cool enough to handle, and then peel. I like to pull them out of the pot with a fork, put them on a paper towel, and scrape them with a knife. Cut them in half and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. A ricer basically works like the spaghetti playdough machine (mine is also a spaetzle maker). If you don't have one, then cut the potatoes into smaller pieces and push them through a fine strainer. I don't know if mashing will work--the ricing keeps the potatoes light and aerated, which is important for the texture. Let the potatoes cool until almost room temp, at least 20 min.

3. Lightly flour a work surface. Pour the egg over the potatoes, then add the flour and salt. Gently mix with your hands--this is the important part. You want the dough to start to clump together, but stop as soon as that happens. If you overmix, the gnocchi will be tough. Push the dough together in the bottom of the bowl, then transfer it to the floured surface and wash your hands.

4. Knead gently for 30 sec to 1 min (no longer!). The flour should be worked into the dough, and it should be soft, smooth, and a little sticky. If you're not sure, set a timer and stop when it goes off. Cover it with a clean towel.

5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly sprinkle flour on it.

6. It's playdough time! Clean off your surface and reflour, then tear off a handful of dough. Gently roll the dough piece into a 3/4-inch rope. With a sharp knife, cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces. Traditionally, gnocchi have little ridges on them, but it's not necessary. These end up looking like little pillows.

7. Keep rolling and cutting until you're done with the dough. At this point, you can freeze some of the gnocchi for another time. Just put the baking sheet in the oven for a couple hours, then transfer them to a bag. If you want to cook half a recipe (fresh or frozen), just throw them in boiling water until they all float, then cook for 1 minute and drain. If you're cooking a whole recipe, cook it in two batches (let the water boil again before adding the second batch).

Quantities: This recipe says it serves six, but I think it could serve 8-12, depending on the sauce and what else you're serving.

How do you eat gnocchi? Their texture and flavor lend them to rich and hearty sauces like a meat sauce or creamy cheese sauce. You can also pan-fry them first, which gives them a less doughy texture. I made a quick meat sauce tonight...the next one will probably be pan-fried!

Quick meat sauce:

I make this with whatever sausage I have on hand...hamburger would work, but sausage has so much flavor already, it lends itself to a quick sauce. Tonight, I used spicy italian sausages--just remember to to cut open and remove the casings.
Put the sausage in a frying pan with some chopped onions over med-high heat (I used two sausages and and med onion). Break up the sausage and stir occasionally. If I were making a meatless sauce, I'd heat some olive oil and add the onions.

Once the sausage and onion are cooked, drain the fat (or just soak it up with a paper towel). I always add garlic right before the tomatoes so it doesn't burn. You can get away without adding any spices if the sausage is spicy enough. :) I added crushed garlic and some sprinkles of basil, oregano, and italian seasonings. Stir them in and let it cook for a minute or two.
I love diced tomatoes. They are the ultimate convenience ingredient--just open and add. I like petite diced, but every time I go to the commisary, someone has cleared them out. :| You can add a can and see what it looks like, then add more if there's too much meat (or you're feeding lots of people!). I don't even drain them. This time I used two.
Let it simmer on the stove while you're finishing things up...I usually shoot for at least five minutes, but longer is just fine, especially if you want it thicker. Don't forget to salt it, and if it tastes a little acidic or bitter, you can add a sprinkle of sugar. Toss with the gnocchi and serve with lots of parmesan cheese.


  1. You should be on "The Next Food Network Star". I liked your little tips like "you don't even have a drain them" and "sausage or hamburger would work" or the thing about freezing--if you brought these tips in on camera, they would love you. The only thing you'd need to add are little references to family--like, "you could do this with the kids", or "you could always food process the onions and then the kids won't even know they're there"--stuff like that. You'd have to make up your own recipes though, so culinary school might be in order. What's available in ABQ? Have you thought of a class now and then?

  2. Susie's comments are fun, aren't they?
    This was GREAT!!!! (Except that you said peeled potatoes in the first step, and then posted a picture to broadcast the typo!) You might want to add a picture at the end next time that has your dish nicely plated. When you come to Illinois in August, maybe you'd like to take home some serving dishes. It's probably time for me to start divesting.

  3. That's amazing! I can't even begin to imagine cooking like that. You're making me look bad woman! Paul just came in and read over my shoulder and was like "Is that a real potato? Where's the box? Is she using FLOUR???" I guess 13 years of Hamburger Helper and Chef Boyardee are beginning to wear on him. I explained that I would totally cook like that if only I had a ricer. I also have no idea what spaetzle is, but I intend to google it immediately. Seriously, your dinner looked and sounded great - I am majorly impressed with your mad chef skills!