Gnocchi-ing on heaven’s door

Imagine you’re eating gnocchi.

Okay. Let’s make it easier: Imagine you know about gnocchi. (If you know about gnocchi, imagine you don’t. Sucks, right?) Tiny, egg-shaped, soft, white, wonderful little potato dumplings, fluffy like clouds except not actually that fluffy because as they spread across your tongue they’re still velvety and substantial.

Oh, gnocchi!

(I’m allowed to be ridiculous. We’re talking about gnocchi.)

So now imagine you’re eating gnocchi. Imagine, as the dumplings spread lightly but also thickly across your tongue, trying to exclaim, “Oh, gnocchi!” and pronouncing it correctly, “Oh, ñññokey!” Imagine the person you’ve invited for dinner ignoring your utterances and pondering, “How in the world did this person that I’m suddenly falling in love with manage to make me gnocchi?” Then imagine responding, in your head, “It’s because I found waxy-skinned boiling potatoes, not new ones but old dense ones, and it’s because I didn’t boil them or knead them for too long, and it’s because gnocchi aren’t actually that hard, and tonight I went ahead and made you good gnocchi.”

Feels good, right?

Recipe: Homemade Gnocchi

(Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking”)

Active time: 1.5 hours. Actual time: 1 hour. Serves 6.

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs waxy boiling potatoes (not rough baking potatoes)

1.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 egg (maybe, hopefully not)

Process:

(1) Place potatoes with their skins on in large pot of water, and bring to a boil. Cook until tender, but try not to poke them too often, because they’ll absorb too much water. Remove potatoes from pot and place directly in a bowl filled with cold water. (Keep the water boiling, because you’ll need it soon.) Let potatoes sit 30 seconds, then remove from bowl and pull off skins. Mash potatoes with a fork or potato masher (or pass through a food mill) until smooth, but do not mash for so long that they turn gummy.

(2) Add most of the flour, and knead until smooth. Continue adding flour until the mixture is soft and consistent but still slightly sticky (you may not need all the flour). Do not knead too much, and stop kneading when you’ve reached the right consistency.

(3) Remove a tiny piece of dough, about the diameter of a bottle cap, and roll into a nice oval egg-shape. Drop into boiling water. If it holds together under water and floats to the surface after approximately 45 seconds, move to step (4). If it dissolves immediately, add 1 egg to the dough to help keep it together.

(4) Divide the dough into four parts and lay parts on a well-floured surface. Roll each part (very gently!) with your hands until a sausage-like roll forms, about 1 inch thick. Slice the rolls into pieces 1/4 inch thick, and roll each piece in your hands until it holds together in a nice oval egg-shape. Holding a fork in your left hand, press each piece against the tongs of the fork with your right thumb and flip the piece towards you. The idea is to make “rungs” on each piece to hold sauce. Don’t worry if they’re ugly. If it’s not working, skip it.

(5) When all the pieces are ready, drop them (in 2 batches, probably) into the still-boiling water. When a piece rises to the surface of the water, wait 10 seconds and then remove it to a warm plate or bowl. Continue until all the pieces are finished. Pour pre-prepared sauce over gnocchi (tomato sauces are good, as is fresh sage leaves fried in melted butter for 10 seconds) and serve immediately. Feel good.

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