What better way to learn to cook than to get into the kitchen and work shoulder to shoulder with your grandmother?
Sorta makes me wish I had a French grandmother and a Mexican grandmother and a Chinese grandmother and an Indian grandmother and an Italian grandmother. Definitely an Italian grandmother. She would've taught me to make authentic soft, pillowy gnocchi. But since I do not have an Italian grandmother, I had to figure it out for myself. I'm pretty sure my Italian grandmother would've been proud of these…
3 large Russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Place the potatoes on a rack on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Let rest for about 15 minutes, or until just cool enough to handle. Peel and puree in a ricer using the finest disc. Spread evenly on the baking tray and let cool to room temperature.
Transfer the potato puree to a large bowl, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the egg. Stir in the flour. Transfer to a work surface and knead briefly until smooth. Cut the dough into eighths. Roll 1 portion of dough into a ½-inch thick rope and sprinkle lightly with flour. Using a bench knife, cut the rope into ½-inch pieces. Roll 1 side of each piece of dough against a lightly floured gnocchi board or the back of the tines of a fork, pressing the other side lightly with your thumb as you roll. Make more gnocchi with the remaining dough in the same manner. As you work, arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on lightly floured parchment-lined baking trays. Let dry for up to 2 hours.
Cook the gnocchi in 2 or 3 batches in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until they float to the surface of the water. Remove the gnocchi from the pot using a wire skimmer. Serve immediately as desired.
Serves 4 as a main course. The key to making light, fluffy gnocchi is to drive off as much of the moisture from the potato as possible during baking and cooling and to incorporate as little flour into the dough as possible. (Hence, recipes that call for boiling or steaming the potatoes yield inferior results.) The dough will be a bit soft and sticky, but it should be smooth and fairly easy to knead and form. Keep your hands, work surface, tools, and dough lightly floured as you work but avoid adding excess flour. Serve the gnocchi tossed with plain butter, brown butter and sage, or your favorite pasta sauce and sprinkled with grated Parmegiano-Reggiano. Gnocchi with Tomato Cream Sauce & Fresh Mozzarella is a winning combination. Uncooked gnocchi may be frozen in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and transferred to a zip-top bag when frozen solid. Gnocchi keep for several weeks frozen. Cook them straight from the freezer—do not thaw.