Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Gnocchetti all'Amatriciana

Gnocchi is by far my favorite dish at any Italian restaurant.  I love it when it is paired with a meat like proscuitto, or pancetta.  I also love it with truffle oil or pesto.  I most recently had it at Paprika, and it was pillowy soft melt in your mouth amazing.  Other notable places I've had it at Alta (equally melt in your mouth delish) and Araxi in Whistler (with lamb and black truffles. OHHHH EMMMM GEEEE).

First we started by making the sauce - with some red onions.

Canned plum tomatos, chopped, and then simmering with the onions.

Boiling the yukon gold potatoes

My sous chef is investigating while I oversee what he is doing

I'm not exactly how tender the potatoes are supposed to be - so I just kept checking on them till I could stick a fork through them.

My mom is peeling the potatoes after they have cooled off.  Last time I made gnocchi, we didn't have a ricer, and we thought maybe that is why the gnocchi didn't come out as soft and pillowy.  This time, we got a ricer.  However, the second secret to soft, pillowy, melt in your mouth gnocchi, is also not over-handling the dough.  This is a tough step to master.  I've only made gnocchi three times in my life (including this time), and this third try was probably the closest I've gotten to good restaurant quality/Italian grandmother type gnocchi.  So, perhaps the ricer was the trick!

After ricing the potatoes, we mixed them with some flour and some salt.

My sister was an expert gnocchi log roller.  You should have seen my fat caterpillar-esque logs compared to her slim logs.  She had a secret technique for making the log long without over-handling it.  I tried to do it that way but...well...not so successful.

This is how we got the ridges in our gnocchi.  Flicking the gnocchi across the fork tines (see recipe/directions below).

Gnocchi ready to boil!

Some freshly grated pecorino romano

My sous chef is asleep!  He is very tired I guess

You only need to boil the gnocchi for a few minutes - maybe 2 max, till they float to the top.

Enjoying some fresh, warm, more or less soft-ish, gnocchi

Gnocchetti all'Amatriciana Tiny Potato Dumplings with Tomato, Onion and Pancetta Sauce adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

This particular recipe for gnocchi did not include egg, but most do.  We also omitted the pancetta and made it vegetarian.

For Sauce:
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, finely chopped (1 1/4 cups)
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained (juice reserved) and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
For Gnocchetti
  • 1 1/2 pounds yellow-fleshed potatoes (I used yukon gold.  Other choices would include bintje or yellow finn, but yukon are very easy to find)
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for dusting
  • 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Finely grated pecorino romano
  • a potato ricer or food mill
Make the sauce: Heat oil in a 5 to 6 quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking.  Add the onions and cook, stirring, until the onions are golden, about 6 minutes or so.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute.  Add tomatoes, with their juice, water, sugar, and salt. Bring to a simmer, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until thickened about 30 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

In a separate pot, combine the potatoes with salted water (about 1 tbsp. salt per every 4 quarts water) to cover by 2 inches in a large pot, bring to a simmer, and simmer, uncovered, until very tender (this took about 30 minutes).  Drain in a colander and let cool slightly. 

As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel.  Force warm potatoes through ricer or food mill into a large bowl.  Add the flour and salt, and stir with a wooden spoon (not sure why wooden spoon but maybe something about transferring taste or starchiness? no clue.) until the mixture begins to come together.  Gently form the dough into a ball and cut in half. 

Knead each half on a lightly floured surface until smooth, about 1 minute.  Cut each half into 10 equal pieces. 

Keep the remaining pieces covered with a kitchen towel (so they don't become dry).  Roll 1 piece of dough into a 14-inch-long rope (1/2 inch thick).  Cut the rope into 1/4-inch pieces and toss lightly with flour on your work surface.  One at a time, press a piece of dough against tines of a floured fork and push with a floured thumb in a forward rolling motion toward end of tines, letting dough fall onto a well-floured baking sheet with sides.  Note that this should be more of a flick of the thumb (think scrolling through your iPhone playlist to get to the bottom) as opposed to dragging (like trying to move your iPhone applications from one screen to another).

Reheat your sauce over low heat and keep it warm.  

Cook the gnocchetti in batches.  Just before cooking, shake each batch in a sieve to knock off the excess flour.  Drop each batch into a pot of boiling, salted water until they float, somewhere between 1 to 2 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, drain any water, and transfer to a large bowl.  Spoon some sauce on top, and sprinkle some cheese on each serving to taste.  

As I mentioned, this was by far the best gnocchi I've made.  Not all were soft and pillowy, in fact, some where really doughy and tough, but it came out okay as the sauce made all gnocchettis taste yum.  I'm going to keep on trying recipes out till they come out Paprika/Araxi/Alta perfect.  I might have to find a gnocchi class.  Or, find an Italian grandmother to help me out.  

You can make the sauce up to 2 days in advance and keep it in the fridge (covered of course).

The gnocchetti was the most time-consuming step of the process.  If my sister and I hadn't been working together, it would have taken me FOREVER.  You can make them up to 1 week ahead.  Freeze them in a single layer on a floured baking sheet, covered, until firm, about 3 hours.  Transfer to a sealable plastic bag and freeze.  

When you are ready to cook, don't de-thaw them, and do not shake off the excess flour.  Boil the gnocchetti for about 2 minutes or a bit longer.  


Lavina said...

YUM and i love the new site look. Eggless gnocci I WANT I WANT I WANT.

Divya said...

Love this post and your passion for making perfect gnocchi. I tried making gnocchi for the first time last week (as it, too is my favorite option at Italian restaurants). I totally failed. It would have gone in my "fail" post if I had a cooking blog. If you ever have an "Alta" type gnocchi experience, please impart your knowledge on me!