In this dish, Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Basil Sauce, the humble potato is transformed into a melt-in-your mouth delicacy. Gnocchi are simply the Italian version of dumplings and can be prepared in limitless ways. Just about any sauce will compliment this potato dumpling.
Today, there is such an extensive variety of gnocchi! Some are made with ricotta or squash while others are flavored with beets. There are also gnocchi where different flours are utilized, such as chestnut, buckwheat and also wholewheat flour.
Another version is made with semolina flour, milk, cheese and known as Gnocchi alla Romana. I’ll leave this one for another post perhaps, because it deserves a special space here on my blog.
These Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Basil Sauce, however, is the type of dish I grew up with. They were my number one request each time my mamma would ask me what I wanted to eat for my birthday celebration and she never failed to remind me of the countless times I would help her twirl the gnocchi with my chubby little fingers!
A potato ricer does an excellent job of mashing the potatoes. If you don’t have one, a fork will do just fine.
I’ve had this gnocchi board for many years now but very rarely used it. You can find them in any kitchen supply store at under 5 dollars.
Mamma taught me to twirl the gnocchi using my index finger and middle finger by pressing both down into the gnocchi and rolling quickly towards me. Alternately you can use the back of a fork to make the pretty indentations. The little ridges that form are a perfect entrapment for all that delicious sauce.
These exquisite potato gnocchi are very filling and therefore often served in moderate portions as a first course meal.
Furthermore you will want to savor every bite, enjoying the melt-in-your mouth sensation and never rush a good thing!
A Few Tips For Beginners:
Always start with less amount of flour then the recipe calls for. The moisture of your potatoes and the amount of eggs used will determine how much flour is needed.
Do not knead more then a few minutes as this would result in too much flour adsorption which yields heavier gnocchi.
It goes without saying to always use a big sauce pot when cooking any form of pasta. Drop a few at a time into the boiling water to avoid the gnocchi from sticking together.
The potatoes can also be boiled instead of baking them. Just make sure to not pierce or cut through the potato when boiling them, otherwise they will absorb to much water.
Ideally you will want to make and cook the gnocchi within a few hours. Simply transfer the gnocchi in a single layer on a lightly dusted cookie sheet and cover with a clean dish towel till ready to use.
Gnocchi can also be frozen. Transfer them on a cookie sheet in a single layer and place the tray in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer them into a freezer bag.
In conclusion, have fun and don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the process after all practice makes perfect!
- For the gnocchi
- 4 large russet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon beaten egg
- 1½ to 2 cups all purpose flour
- Simple Tomato Sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- pinch of crushed chili pepper
- 24 ounce jar Passata ( Italian strained tomatoes) I used San Marzano
- 2 sprigs of basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup diced mozzarella
- Parmesan cheese
- For The Gnocchi
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- Wash the potatoes under cold running water and pat dry.
- Use a large knife and make a deep incision length-wise into each potato.
- Place the potatoes on a cookie sheet and bake until they are tender, for about 1 hour.
- Let potatoes cool a little but do peel them while they are still a bit warm.
- Put them through a potato ricer. Alternately you can use a potato masher or a fork.
- Place the mashed potatoes in a large bowl.
- Add in the salt, 1 tablespoon of beaten egg and 1 and ½ cups of flour.
- Using your hands, mix well just until the flour and potatoes stick together forming a rough looking dough.
- Transfer the dough to a wooden board or work surface.
- Knead the dough lightly, gradually adding a little bit of the remaining flour if the dough is sticking too heavily on your work surface. (I did not need all of the remaining ½ cup more of flour)
- Knead for 2 to 3 minutes.
- The dough should be smooth, pliable and just a little bit sticky.
- Cut off a section of dough at a time.
- Roll the piece of dough with a back and forth motion until you get the thickness of your index finger.
- Cut the roll into 1 inch pieces.
- Repeat with the remaining dough.
- To shape the gnocchi, I used my little wooden gnocchi board with ridges.
- Alternately, you can use the back of a fork .
- Hold the fork at 45 degree angle, with the tines down on the work surface with its' inside curve towards you.
- Take a gnocchi role and press it with your index finger against the tip end of the fork while quickly sliding it up along the length of the fork tins.
- Or simply use your index and middle fingers by pressing both fingers down into the gnocchi and rolling quickly towards you. The gnocchi will flip over and have a pretty indentation.
- Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
- Transfer the gnocchi on a lightly floured cookie sheet and cover with a clean dish towel.
- Set aside while you prepare the sauce.
- Tomato Basil Sauce
- Heat the oil in a medium sauce pot over medium low heat and saute the garlic with the crushed chili pepper just until fragrant, taking care not to burn the garlic. (should take less then a minute).
- Add in the passata (Italian strained tomatoes), basil, salt and pepper and stir well.
- Fill the bottle of passata three quarters full with water. Give it a good swirl and add this to the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to a boil then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 45 minutes or until the sauce thickens and the sweet concentrated flavors of the tomatoes come through.
- While the sauce simmers, fill a large sauce pot with water and bring to a rapid boil.
- Add salt to the boiling water and then the gnocchi.
- Once the gnocchi come to surface they are pretty much ready. Leave them floating for about 10 seconds. (If they stay in the water too long, they will become mushy).
- Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place them on a serving platter.
- Pour a little of the sauce over the gnocchi, stir to combine then mix in the diced mozzarella.
- The heat of the tomato sauce will slowly melt the mozzarella.
- Divide the gnocchi onto four plates. Top with more sauce and Parmesan cheese.
- Serve while still hot.