Thursday, April 4, 2013
How to make cheese gnocchi
I'm not going to lie to you, okay. It takes patience to make a really good gnocchi.
Fortunately I have a bit of that. Put me in the kitchen with a bucket of fresh ricotta, a bit of flour, and a little something to sip on while I'm working and I am all set, thank you very much.
Gnocchi are not supposed to be dense or heavy; they're supposed to be light and airy. The best ones practically melt in your mouth. I find that the most delicate potato gnocchi are made with baked—not boiled—potato. The lightest cheese gnocchi? They're the ones made with ricotta, as little flour as you can get away with using, and very little handling.
You probably can't tell from the photo, but these are the melt-in-your-mouth type.
Like I said, I am a patient man.
1 pound ricotta (fresh or good-quality packaged)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Romano cheese
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (more as needed)
1-2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 extra large egg
Drain the ricotta of any excess moisture.
In a large mixing bowl combine the two cheeses and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Taste. Add more salt, or cheese if you wish, if needed. (The saltier the cheese you use, the less salt you'll need to add.)
Add ¾ cups of the flour and the egg. Start mixing together with a wooden spoon or spatula, adding small amounts of additional flour until it begins to act like a very light, very moist dough.
Empty onto a work surface and begin lightly kneading. You may need to add a little more flour but be careful not to add too much. The dough SHOULD NOT be the consistency of, say, a bread or a pasta dough; it should be moist and held barely enough together in order to work with.
Once the dough is ready cut it into several pieces. One at a time lightly roll each piece with the fingertips of both hands until the pieces are around ¾-inch thick.
With a knife or pastry cutter cut the pieces into 1-inch gnocchi.
If you have a gnocchi board roll each gnocchi lightly along the board to form faint ridges. If you don't have this tool, just roll the gnocchi along the back side of fork.
These can be eaten right away, refrigerated for later use, or frozen.
TO COOK THE GNOCCHI
These gnocchi are extremely delicate and require some extra care when cooking. Make sure to use as wide a pot as you have to boil the gnocchi; that way they can spread out and not cook two or three deep in the water. Quickly place the gnocchi into the (well-salted, rapid-boiling) water one or two at a time until they're all in.
In about 4 minutes test one gnocchi for doneness. When you cut into it the color should be uniform; if you detect a white center that means it isn't fully cooked and might need another minute. What I do is boil just one or two gnocchi first in order to get a sense for how long they'll take to cook, THEN cook the entire batch.
Also take care in handling the finished gnocchi. DO NOT dump into a colander as you would a cooked dried pasta. Instead remove the gnocchi from the water using a large slotted spoon. They can be placed directly into individual plates and then sauced. Or, as I often do, have a sauce ready in a very wide saute pan, gently place the gnocchi into the sauce, and then into individual plates.