Light-As-Air Potato Gnocchi...with Browned Butter Sage Sauce. I made this recipe weeks before going to Italy... wanted to get the feel for Italian cuisine early on:). But I did end up going to Rome with a list of dishes I wanted to try... wasn't expecting to try them all, but as many as I could....
I am well aware that a risotto in one place will vary from a risotto in another. The same goes for pasta and other classic Italian dishes. I suppose I wanted to see the difference from the dishes served here in the U.S. and those abroad.... I'm not sure if that's fair... fruits and vegetables always taste different abroad. In any case, my husband and I ended up trying some of the things on my list. The risotto was delicious... loved the pomodoro version! Actually the risotto was very similar to the risotto I make using a pressure cooker. But the pasta was what made our trip worthwhile.
While in Rome, we ended up stumbling upon a wonderful Michelin Star restaurant(Sora Lella) that served homemade pasta and other Roman specialty dishes. The restaurant was tucked away on a small island (Isola Tiberina) in the middle of the Tiber River. Cute little place. An experience I'll never forget... to eat among the locals and taste some amazing dishes. It was there that I also had my first encounter with homemade pasta dishes( Italian version)... including their homemade gnocchi. I found out the meaning of "al dente"... and how pasta should have that toothsome chew. Oh, I knew what al dente should be like... and I've had homemade pasta before... even made my own. But to actually experience the pasta in Italy... from those who've made pasta for generations... well, that's a different pasta!
We weren't very hungry when we stumbled upon the restaurant, but we still decided it was worth going in just to try out some of the dishes.... especially the homemade pasta. I so wanted to try dishes that weren't labeled as part of a "tourist menu". So in we went... We stuck to an appetizer of octopus salad and a couple of pasta dishes and finished the meal with their incredible tiramisu. And while we stopped at the primi piatti, the locals dining there were continuing their meal with the secondi piatti dishes. That's when we noticed the many excellent dishes coming out from the kitchen...they all looked incredible....from braised lamb and oxtails, to suckling pig and veal cheeks. It definitely wasn't a "tourist menu"... but rather a menu with locals in mind. Needless to say, we felt the need to return...and so we did...the following day. But this time around we decided to order like the locals... an antipasti, a primi piatti, a secondi piatti, and a couple of dolci fatti in casa (homemade desserts) along with a caffe to top it all off. The carne(meat) dishes were melt-in-your mouth tender and packed with so much flavor. But I loved their gnocchi di patate(potato gnocchi). So I thought to share a gnocchi recipe... different than the one I had at the restaurant(oh, if only I could replicate that at home one day).
This recipe makes gnocchi that are light and fluffy versus the firmer and chewy sort of gnocchi I ate in Rome. Below you can see a couple of the pasta dishes we ordered...thought you might enjoy seeing the dishes.... I know I know, only a food blogger would take out their camera:).
Depending on the region in Italy, the gnocchi can be made with a variety of ingredients including semolina, wheat flour, ricotta, potato, spinach, etc. And while we might have the gnocchi as a main course... the Italians will have it as a primi piatti( first course) and then move on to the secondi piatti(second course). In either case, the homemade gnocchi is worth making.... a pillowy-soft dumpling that can be served with a variety of sauces.
For this post I was concerned mostly with the gnocchi, and not so much the sauce... which is why the final photos weren't spectacular. I didn't even add the grated Parmesan/Pecorino cheese. Next time I'd love to focus on some homemade sauce to go along with the gnocchi.... but the browned butter sage sauce was quite delicious. Hope you enjoy...
Tip: Use a marinara sauce instead of the browned butter sage for another quick alternative.... or a walnut pesto sauce, or simply tossed with some olive oil and garlic/chive.
Try not to boil the gnocchi for too long, as they will get soft and absorb too much water.
~Another option is to crisp up the gnocchi in a skillet( with a bit of oil/butter)... they will get a nice crust.
You will need: adapted from Cook's Illustrated Oct/Nov 2011 issue
2 lbs russet potatoes
1 large egg
3/4 cup+ 1 TBS( 4oz) all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
4 quarts of water+ 1 TBS salt
Parmesan cheese, grated(optional)
1. The potatoes can be baked in a preheated 450°F oven until fork-tender, about 40 minutes or so. Let them stand just until cool enough to handle. (The hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, the lighter the gnocchi will be.)
2. Cut hot potatoes in half( or quarters). Working quickly scoop out potato flesh( or peel them) and press the potatoes through a potato ricer. Alternatively, the potatoes can be grated on a fine grater(which is what I ended up doing).
3. Spread the riced/grated potatoes into an even layer on a plate or cookie sheet..... without pressing them or compacting them. Let them cool.
4. In a small bowl, beat the egg, 1 tsp salt, and pepper together. Place the riced/grated potatoes in a bowl and pour the egg mixture over the potatoes. Gently stir with a fork to combine.
5. Sprinkle the flour and gently combine until flour evenly coats the potatoes. Place the mixture on a parchment paper( or lightly floured surface) and gently knead the dough for 1 minute...or until dough comes together. You don't want to over-knead.... the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become.
6. Form dough into a elongated shape and into 8- 10 pieces/strips. Using both hands, in a smooth back-and-forth motion gently roll each dough piece into a rope 1/2 inch thick, lightly flouring the dough if necessary.
7. Slice the ropes into 1/2-inch-thick pieces. Sprinkle the pieces lightly with flour.
At this point, you can cook the gnocchi as is or you can form the ridges on the gnocchi:
Using a fork, hold the tines at a 45-degree angle to the surface...with the concave part facing up. Take each piece of dough and with a floured thumb, press the dough lightly against the tines of the fork. Roll the dough downward toward the tip of the fork.... the dough will form an indentation on one side with a ridged surface on the other. Sprinkle a little flour on the fork(or your thumb) if you notice the gnocchi sticking.
8. Place each finished gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Continue with the rest.
1. Bring 4 quarts of water and 1 TBS salt to boil. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon. (You can use a larger pot if you want to cook all the gnocchi at the same time)
2. Cook the gnocchi, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface. Cook the remaining gnocchi, if necessary.
3. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon, draining well, and transfer to saucepan/bowl with some of the sauce. Toss and serve.
~Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.~
Browned Butter Sage Sauce...with Shallots: You can easily double the sauce.
Browned Butter Sauce
4 TBS butter
1 tsp fresh sage
1 1/2 tsps lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1. Melt butter on medium heat until browned... about 1 1/2 min(or so).
2. Off heat, add shallot and sage. Stir for 1 min.
3. Stir in lemon juice and salt.
4. Cover and keep warm.