Our Italy tours this season included several cooking classes. After our walking tour in Venice we cooked fresh seafood straight from the Adriatic. In the town of Bolzano, after a day cycling down the Sudtirol Wine Road surrounded by the Dolomites and Alps, we cooked fresh mushrooms and white asparagus. Some classes were hands-on events led by me, others were Italian chefs demonstrating their techniques, and one very special class was a collaboration between myself and an Italian chef, Chef Michael Seehauser in Bolzano.
Throughout the tours, our Italian chefs shared their recipes and techniques for making gnocchi. I have made gnocchi countless times, quite often in cooking classes as it is a fun dish to make with a group. I’ve developed my own methods for insuring light and tender gnocchi, but learned some new techniques from Chef Michael.
Our list of ingredients and ratios was quite similar – potatoes, eggs, flour, salt. I use 2 eggs, Chef Michael uses 5 egg yolks. Chef Michael emphasized the proper choice of potato, something starchy like our russet potatoes is preferable. He peeled, then boiled them until tender, riced them while still warm, then places them in the refrigerator overnight. This allows them to dry out quite a bit. We both agreed the secret to tender, light gnocchi is to use as little flour as possible. Including this drying time helps with this.
Chef Michael also recommends mixing in the eggs and salt in before adding the flour. He believes this allows the salt to be better distributed in the dough. He then adds nutmeg – he described it as a “little nutmeg” but it was much more than I would have included! I had just seen another chef add nutmeg to his gnocchi the week before, and it was just a few scrapes on the grater. Chef Michael added much more, probably close to 1/2 teaspoon or so. I liked very much the addition of the nutmeg, but will probably adjust the amount I add according to the final recipe – a sauce with some earthy flavors might bear more nutmeg, while something light and fresh I’d add a bit less.
From Chef Michael Seehauser in Bolzano
2 1/4 pounds starchy potatoes, such as russet
5 egg yolks, beaten slightly to combine
1 tablespoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Peel and cut potatoes into large chunks, Place in a large pot of water, add salt, and bring to a boil. Cook until tender when pierced with a knife. Drain.
Allow to cool just until you are able to handle them. While still warm, rice the potatoes. On a scale, weigh 2 pounds of potatoes for your gnocchi, using any that remain for another purpose. Allow your 2 pounds of riced potatoes to cool to room temperature, and then preferably sit overnight in the refrigerator.
When cool, add in the egg yolks and salt and mix to combine. Add in the nutmeg and the flour, and mix again, just until combined; you don’t want to handle the dough too much.
Fill a small pan with water and bring to a boil. You will use this to test the texture of your gnocchi. Take a small piece of dough, about the size of a strawberry, and drop it into the boiling water. It will cook for about a minute, and then should rise to the surface. If, rather than sink and then rise, it breaks apart, add a bit more flour to the dough and knead again. Once you get a test one that sinks and then rises without blowing apart, you are ready to move on to the next step. You should have a test gnocchi that is cooked through, but still soft and light.
Dust the counter with flour. Divide the dough into between 4 and 5 equally sized pieces. Take one of the pieces and place it on the floured counter top. Using the palms of your hands, roll the piece out into a 1/2 inch thick log, which will be about 18 inches long. Cut the log into 1-inch lengths, and place the individual gnocchi onto a sheet pan that has been dusted with flour. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough.
Fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil and season with salt. Add the gnocchi to the boiling water in small batches. Once they have risen to the top, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and lay them on a baking sheet to cool. At this point, they are ready to use in your favorite sauce or baked gnocchi dish.
Chef Michael’s tips:
Use a starchy potato
Rice when warm, so you don’t get mushy gnocchi
Allow to cool, preferably overnight to insure they are as dry as possible.
Add the egg yolks and salt before the flour, as the salt will better mix into the potatoes
Add a lot of nutmeg
Add links to my ways to use gnocchi: