According to the Professional Eater (PE) I live with, it is traditional in Argentina to eat gnocchi on the 29th of each month. It is unclear where this tradition might have originated from or if it is widely followed, but PE is adamant that it is done — possibly because of the strong Italian cultural influence in Argentina. Anyways, I decided to take on the challenge of making fresh gnocchi. Gnocchi is quite popular in Israel and can be found in numerous restaurants as well as supermarkets, so if you too want the full Gnocchi Day experience in Israel it is not necessary to make them from scratch.
I went through several recipes to find the one that seemed to make the most traditional gnocchi. The one I ended up choosing is here and I have made some changes according to my experiences with it.
1 pound of baking potatoes (or 4-5 medium sized potatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
about 1 2/3 cups flour
Wash the potatoes, pierce them with a fork, and bake them in an oven set at 200 degrees C for about 1 hour or until soft throughout. If you would like, you can boil the potatoes (skins on) if you would like to instead. But from what I understood from reading around baking is the preferred way as it allows less water to seep into the potatoes which results in a lighter gnocchi. Once cooked, allow potatoes to cool slightly and peel them. Once potatoes are completely peeled (don’t leave any brown bits on them) run the potatoes through a ricer, or potato masher (I used this method), or — if you have neither ricer or masher — mash and scrape them with a fork until no lumps remain.
Stir in the egg, salt and about 1 1/3 cups of the flour. Once the flour is combined, clean and lightly flour a work surface and set the dough on it. Knead the dough gently until smooth but still a little tacky. Add more flour if necessary so that the dough is not sticky enough to stick to your work surface but still wet enough to adhere slightly to your hands when you touch it.
Divide the dough in 8 pieces and place 7 of them on a lightly floured plate in the fridge while you work with the 8th. Clean and add a little more flour to your work surface if necessary. Take the piece of dough you are working it and lightly roll it on the work surface or between your hands until you make a long ‘snake’ that is about 3/4 in or 2 cm wide.
Using a knife, cut the dough into 1 in or 2.5 cm length pieces so they form little ‘pillows’ of gnocchi. Don’t worry too much if this is not completely accurate or if you would like larger gnocchi as each piece should cook correctly later no matter what size. Also don’t worry too much if you feel some small, hard, grains in your dough from the flour mixing improperly. These will no longer be felt when the gnocchi is cooked.
At this point, you can leave gnocchi as-is in their pillow shapes (good for browning in butter and eating with a simple sauce) or shape them (good for catching sauce in the ridges and imparting more flavor). To shape roll each gnocchi on the tines of a fork until it forms small ridges and becomes more of an oval in shape. While you are shaping the gnocchi, heat a pot of water and salt on the stove until boiling.
If you would like to freeze the gnocchi for later, this is the stage to do it in. Spread the gnocchi in a single layer onto a baking sheet and freeze for an hour until hard. Then transfer the gnocchi to ziplock bags and store in the freezer until ready to use.
It is possible to either finish shaping all the gnocchi ahead of time or to work in batches where you shape some gnocchi, cook them, and then shape the next batch of gnocchi etc. Do whatever works for you as long as you don’t leave the gnocchi cooking unattended as this will lead to them being over cooked.
To cook gnocchi, drop them in a pot of salted, boiling water.Work in gnocchi batches of about 20 so that they are not overcrowded in the pot. Once the gnocchi float to the top (after about 2 minutes), you will know they are done! Pull them out with a slotted spoon and drizzle them with a bit of olive oil so they don’t stick while you make the next batch.
Reheat and saute the gnocchi in a pan with a little olive oil or butter. You can pair gnocchi with numerous sauces (which I would suggest, as they are a bit bland plain) and then grate some Parmesan cheese on top. For my gnocchi, I chose to make a simple pesto. Enjoy!