Two kinds of gnocchi, two ways
Did you know different regions of Italy have different definitions of gnocchi? Neither did I…but I suppose we should have known considering the variations on basic sauces and pasta dishes around the country as well as different takes on wine, cheeses, and pastry. But still! Cool discovery! I decided to make the traditional gnocchi after reading an amazing tutorial in the Food Buzz Project Food Blog by Food Nouveau. And! after discovering a recipe for Gnocchi alla Romana on Tastespotting through Aldente Gourmet, I decided to try this potato-less version. Yep. You heard me. Potato-less gnocchi. These Roman style gnocchi are made with semolina flour and are more like a dense, milk based pasta.
As for the two ways, I’d never had pan friend gnocchi before. I’ve always boiled them. So! These Gnocchi alla Romana are traditionally pan fried. I therefore took the opportunity to try the potato gnocchi pan fried as well (and boiled a few just for a taste of the familiar).
Read on for the recipes and photos…
Gnocchi alla Romana
(this is a half recipe from Aldente Gourmet’s – mixed with the other gnocchi, this made about 4 – 5 entrée meals)
1 cup whole milk (I attempted to be healthier and used 2%)
1/2 cup fine semolina flour
1 egg (for all you vegans out there, this is optional. Substitute a little bit of oil)
1 bay leaf (I didn’t have this and I think it would have added a nice flavor to the dough)
Kosher salt to taste
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Unsalted butter (or margarine) for pan frying and greasing
- In a saucepan add the milk, salt and the bay leaf.
- Bring to the boil.
- Remove the bay leaf and then slowly sprinkle in the semolina, whisking energetically to prevent any lumps.
- Immediately lower the heat and cook, uncovered, for about 1 – 2 minutes or until the mixture is thick and starts to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Remove from the heat and add the egg, nutmeg and a little more salt if necessary.
- Grease a tray with unsalted butter and dollop the semolina mixture onto it.
- Spread the mixture using a wet spatula—about 1-2 cm thick. I ended up keeping a measuring cup with water nearby so I could continuously dip the spatula.
- Take the tray to the fridge and leave it for 30 minutes to an hour.
- When ready, cut mixture into circles using 4 cm/ 1 in cookie cutter. I ended up using the cap to an alcohol bottle because I had no cutters any where near that size…
- Melt about 2 tbsp butter and start frying the gnocchi until golden and crisp on each side. (You can fry them at the same time as the potato gnocchi). Serve immediately.
1 lb. of starchy potatoes (normally russets are ideal for this, but I had yellow potatoes lying around, and they worked fine though perhaps a bit wilty when boiled)
1 egg lightly, beaten
1/2 cup unbleached all purpose flour
fine grain kosher or sea salt
- Salt and boil water in a large pot (there should be just enough water to cover your potatoes).
- Now, with the potatoes, you don’t want to cut them before boiling because they will get too saturated (water is the gnocchi’s enemy). However, here’s a quick tip to help you peel the potatoes quickly after they boil. Cut about a 1/8″ into the potato all the way around. You’ll see how easy it is to peel them with a paring knife later – the skin almost falls off!
- Boil the potatoes until soft, about 30 – 40 minutes.
- Remove potatoes one by one and peel quickly (but don’t burn yourself – it’s not THAT urgent!).
- Another finicky issue with gnocchi is mashing them to an even, consistent texture. People often use potato ricers. Honestly, they’re not necessary. Take a fork and slide it down the edge of your potato and just work around until you have a consistent potato base. Mash up a little more to ensure consistency.
- Let the potatoes cool on your cutting board for about 10 minutes (so as not to cook the egg when it’s added).
- Drizzle the egg and the flour over the potato base (I’d suggest moving this operation to a bowl, though some people do it on a cutting board as when mixing flour pasta). Combine.
- Knead your dough on a flour surface. The dough should be moist but not sticky. Adjust with a bit more flour if you need to.
- Divide into four sections.
- Roll each section out into a log about the thickness of your thumb. Cut into 3/4″ pieces. Dust with a bit of flour.
- To form the gnocchi with a fork, stand a fork up at a 70 or so degree angle from the table with the concave side facing away from you. Take a piece of gnocchi and press it on the tines of the fork.
- Fold the piece over on itself and admire the tine marks!
- Pan fry them with the other gnocchi OR, boil in salted water. Once the gnocchi have risen to the surface, they’re ready to be sauced and eaten.
I served the gnocchi with a Sage Butter Sauce
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp fresh sage chopped finely
1 tsp (or so) of kosher salt
- Eat up butter in a small skillet until the foam subsides.
- Add kosher salt and sage and cook briefly.
- Drizzle over finished gnocchi.
After all the cooking and prep work, I think that the potato gnocchi are still my favorite taste-wise, despite the extent of work that goes with them. Pan-fried gnocchi, though not as healthy as boiling, are DELICIOUS. I could eat them all day long. And absolutely no disrespect to the Gnocchi alla Romana, they were wonderful as well and I will definitely be keeping them in my arsenal!!