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Published: 12/17/2010 | 0 Comments Posted
Eating a bowl of fluffy gnocchi, simply sauced with pesto or sage in brown butter, is the equivalent of falling into a soft feather bed. Easy to do and easy to enjoy, but to actually make that feather bed you've got to kill a whole lot of geese and get pretty messy. The analogous pitfalls and time requirements of hand-making pasta has kept me from attempting those feathery pillows until now, when I went on the hunt for the Ultimate Gnocchi Recipe. Prescriptions for perfect pasta abound on the Web; the Food Network came up high offering versions from Emeril Lagasse (who starts with mashed potatoes) and Mario Batali (who has you par-cook the things and hold them in oil until service). Further research turned up dozens of other, slightly less corporate sources.
The first method that stood out came from Anna Maria Volpi, a native of Italy who provides step-by-step instructions (with photos) for classic Gnocchi Patate. Her version is as traditional as it gets, boiling the potatoes in their skins and incorporating only flour and salt into the dough (the egg is optional) to create a super-light and incidentally vegan dumpling.
Executing Volpi's recipe resulted in puffed, airy dumplings that came at the expense of a difficut-to-work, crumbly dough. These boiled potato, egg-free vegan gnocchi worked best when cut into 1" pieces from a 3/4" rolled dowel of dough.
The second recipe worth using originates at The Italian Dish, a blog devoted to simple recipe/photo guides to classic Italian preparations. The Italian Dish bakes their Russet potatoes instead of boiling, mixing drier riced potatoes with eggs and flour. This egg-enriched dough held together better and was easier to work with. The gnocchi were also stiffer and took to their saute without tearing, without sacrificing the fluff and bite of a quality gnoccho (singluar of gnocchi).
Gnocchi made in a large batch can be frozen and used later, by placing freshly cut gnocchi on a floured cloth on a baking sheet and freezing for 20 minutes. Partially frozen gnocchi can then be transferred to a freezer bag and stored for up to one month. To serve, add gnocchi straight from the freezer to vigorously boiling water until they float. Add gnocchi to saute pan containing warmed sauce of your choice; toss to combine sauce with gnocchi. Serve hot, immediately.
To make successful vegan, traditional gnocchi, follow Anna Maria Volpi's technique, which can be modified by using baked potatoes instead of boiled. Bake the 2 lbs. of Russet potatoes for 65 minutes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven, then proceed with the recipe as usual, omitting eggs.
To make successful egg and potato gnocchi, follow The Italian Dish's recipe. Bake 1.5 lbs. of Russet potatoes in a 400 degree Fahrenheit oven for 65 minutes, until tender to the fork. Be cautious peeling potatoes of their skin; steam released from under the skin can burn you badly.
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