My great-grandmother was the most amazing cook. Lucky for me (and now you), I was in my 20's when she passed. She was around for many years to teach me how to cook, and this was her all-time best dish!
The first time I went to my grandmother's house to help them make this dish I was probably around 8 years old. My Nonni, as we called her, never put food on the table that wasn't just right. So rather than set me to work right away - she made me practice. I rolled the same small ball of dough over and over and over again until she felt my skills had developed enough to be allowed to make the pasta that would actually be served! I was so angry and frustrated! It took me most of the day to meet her standard.
These days, I'm the only one of my generation that really knows how to make this dish. And I can do it pretty quickly; all because of that day when I rolled the same 10 gnocchi for hours on end. I didn't see it then, but it was her love of food and family that drove her to perfection. The same love I have for those things.
I won't tell you this dish is quick or easy. It's neither. But it some how always comes out just right. The perfect memory of this amazing lady who taught me so much. Who lived to be 101. Who made sure all of her meals had a vegetable. Who did her hair and wore make-up every day until she physically couldn't walk any more. And so I always make it with her in mind; and I'm pretty sure her spirit is the secret ingredient.
Gnocchi di Patate
Serves 4 as an entree
4 baking potatoes (even sized)
2 C. 00 flour (plus extra)
1 tsp. salt
Scrub the potatoes well. Pierce them all over with a fork. Place on a paper towel in the microwave and cook for 6-8 minutes (depending on how powerful your microwave is). Flip the potatoes and cook for another 6-8 minutes. Remove from the microwave and allow to rest until cool enough to handle.
While the potatoes cook, set up your work surface. Combine four and salt and create a "volcano" on the work area.
Cut the potatoes in half, and peel them. Using a potato ricer, rice the potatoes over the pile of flour until you've processed all of them. Create a small well in the center of the potatoes and add the egg.
Flour your hands and start working your dough by moving the outer edges of your "mountain" inward and pressing down. Continue in this manner until all the ingredients come together and a smooth dough forms. Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 30 minutes.
Using a sharp knife, cut a small piece from the dough. Roll it into a snake, about a half-inch thick. Cut the snack into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare a few cookie sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle them with flour.
Using a fork, roll each small piece from the top of the fork prongs, to the bottom. Gently pushing with your thumb. This will create a small "scoop" in the center of the pasta and ridges on the outside. Set the piece aside on the parchment paper. Continue rolling pasta until all the dough is used up. YOU CANNOT SAVE THE DOUGH. You CAN however, freeze the formed gnocchi on the cookie sheets and then transfer them to a ziplock baggie to use later.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Warm the marinara sauce (or sauce of choice) in a saute' pan.
Add the gnocchi to the boiling water. As soon as they float they are cooked, about 3 minutes. Use a strainer or slotted spoon to transfer the gnocchi from the water to the sauce. Stir to coat. Add a spoonful of pasta water to build the flavors and help the sauce stick to the pasta. Finish with a small pat of butter.
Serve the gnocchi hot, topped with fresh grated parmesan cheese.