Gnochhi (nyo-kee) (singular – gnoccho) are little potato and flour dumplings from Italy. The making process very much resembles the making of ‘gatte’ (singular – gatta), a gluten free dumpling from Rajasthan (India) made with gram flour (besan). Each has its own characteristic taste and gatte can very well be used as a base to make gluten free gnocchi. To know more about gatte check my detailed post – how to make gatte.
My liking for gnocchi is an offshoot of my love for movies. Poetry, sayings, music, movies and other arts often inspire me to cook.
If you have watched The Godfather trilogy with as much dedication and passion as I have, even as many times as I have, you’d start to notice things. For instance, the gnochhi making scene between Vincent (Andy Garcia) and Mary (Sofia Coppola). I think the fact that Andy Garcia could roll a gnoccho as well as he did, added to his hotness quotient.
There are times I may forget his name but I will never forget the delicate handling of the dough and how he rolls it – like a true Italian mamma! Ever since I saw that scene I have wanted to eat homemade gnocchi. 😀
I also noticed when I saw the movie for the seventh or eighth time that Joe Mantegna, whom I know from the television series Criminal Minds, played the part of Joey Zaza in The Godfather, and I felt thrilled for some reason. When you see a familiar actor in a movie it is like meeting an old acquaintance. 🙂
I have made gnocchi quite a few times at home since the film. The first time it was the Garcia effect but the other times I was driven solely by compulsion – most ready gnocchi packages contain eggs. Looking up about authentic gnocchi I found that the original Italian version was vegan and that the additional of eggs is a fairly recent development.
In order to get a tasty product, it is necessary to keep a few pointers in mind:
Type of potatoes: Use potatoes that are floury and not gummy. Remove any eyes and cut off discoloured portions before ricing.
Cooking method: Bake the potatoes in jackets on a bed of salt as advised by Chef Marco Pierre White, or steam rather than boil. The idea is to keep moisture to a minimum, and consequently control the amount of flour used.
Ricing: You can use a fork to cut the cooked potatoes and a vegetable masher, but using a potato ricer makes ricing very easy and is therefore recommended.
Flour to potato ratio: Start with the ratio of 1:4, i.e., the weight of flour added should be 1/4th the weight of the potatoes after cooking and removing the skin. I tried making gnocchi with less and more flour and found that this ratio seems perfect. Even with 1/4th flour, the dough is slightly sticky but if you flour your hands and the board it is easy to handle the dough. More flour leads to gnocchi tasting more of flour and with no flavour from the potatoes. I use all purpose, refined flour and it is good enough. I don’t have other choices though. Maybe I should try whole wheat flour next time.
Grooves or no grooves: The use of a gnocchi paddle or rigagnocchi is a cosmetic effect and not a necessity, as effectively demonstrated by Mr. Garcia. 🙂 But do press and curl the gnocchi as the groove created helps hold the sauce, and not the ridges made by the paddle. I have two paddles though and I like using them. 🙂
Recipe: Home made gnochhi
(Adapted from Memorie di Angelina – Very informative)
Serves: 1 heavy eater or 2 light eaters
Potatoes, steamed, and skins removed – 330g
All purpose flour (maida) – 75g + 1 or 2 tbsp. if needed
Salt – A generous pinch
Water – To boil the gnocchi in
Steam potatoes, or bake on a bed of coarse salt till fork tender. Remove skin while hot and weigh.
Flour a wooden board or your work surface. Push the potatoes through a food mill or ricer while warm onto the work surface. Spread a little.
Add the salt and sprinkle the flour (1/4th the weight of the potatoes) all over the potatoes.
Using a dough scraper or your palms, make a dough by folding the potatoes from the outer edge to the center, mounding the dough while pressing it together. Repeat pressing gently and forming a dough. Do not knead the dough as you do not want to activate the gluten in the flour. You can use the scraper to fold and cut if you need. The dough should be ready in 5 minutes. If it seems very sticky, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour on the work surface and incorporate. I like mine a little sticky as a tacky dough requires more flour and results in a less robust gnocchi. Form a cylinder and cover with a clean towel allowing the dough to rest for 10 minutes.
After ten minutes, cut the dough into five uniform pieces using the scraper. Remove one piece and roll on a floured work surface into a rope about 1 cm thick. Cut the rope into 1/2 inch or 1 inch pieces as per your liking.
Next watch Mr. Garcia guiding Ms. Coppola on rolling a gnoccho. Glued? Drag yourself back and start making!
These will work well even without the ridges. If using a gnocchi paddle, dust it with a little flour, place a gnoccho near the top end with the cut plump side down and the flatter end facing upward. Press the lower end of the gnoccho gently and roll the top end over, gently bringing it down. This will form a curl and a groove for holding the sauce or spices while the plump top gets a grooved appearance. Form the rest of the gnocchi. I got about 3-3.5 cups, loosely packed.
Heat a litre of water and salt it as per taste (About 1.5 tsp.), and bring it to the boil. Add about a cup of gnocchi. When the gnocchi raise to the top and start floating they will be cooked. Allow a minute and remove with a slotted spoon and add directly to the sauce or spices of your choice. If the sauce is yet to be made remove onto a well oiled bowl. Toss gently to coat with oil and to avoid the gnocchi from sticking or clumping.
This basic gnocchi can be used in a variety of ways – like an aglio olio pasta or in different sauces.