Homemade Rosemary Potato Gnocchi

Leave the gun, take the gnocchi

We have just a few traditions in our house that we abide by with comforting regularity, and one of them is spending the holidays during the last few weeks of the year with my sister-in-law L, otherwise known as YaYa, and her husband S, The Old Man.

Because they teach at a university, they have the benefit of a long vacation break between semesters. Because we have a few children, we make them fly out of Logan Airport at holiday time to visit us. It’s a win-win situation, really.

When I tell people that we have relatives moving in for a few weeks over the holidays, they usually groan in sympathy. I know they’re probably imagining a scene out of a John Candy movie, where crazy Uncle Jack overstays his visit, starts drinking beer at lunch, terrorizes the children and stops up the toilet.

While we definitely start drinking lots more alcohol and we have actually called upon the services of Roto Rooter at least once this past month, to say that we look forward to the visit is putting it mildly. We live for it.

Who wouldn’t? For us, it’s all about celebrating and feasting; for two whole weeks we feel like we’re on vacation. By unplugging ourselves from our usual routine we can really get into the spirit of things. We cook together just about every night. We make multiple trips to the wine store to restock, and depending on our mood, stay up too late listening to music, talking or playing our favorite obscure board game, Who Killed Dr. Lucky.

We manage to keep up a fun spirit of camaraderie in the kitchen; everyone gravitates toward a job, depending on the menu. T and The Old Man team up for things like crabcakes and their famous pumpkin ravioli, while YaYa is mistress of salads and table setting. She also helps me plan our list of menus, because somebody needs to be in charge.

Although, this year, because I just finished reading Phoebe Damrosch’s book Service Included, we took to calling each other “chef” – with the just the right tone of irony, of course – because Thomas Keller runs his kitchen with a sense of democracy, that’s how all the employees at Per Se are instructed to communicate, apparently.

This was our Year of the Gnocchi. We used a recipe from chef Charlie Palmer’s cool waterproof book, the Practical Guide to the New American Kitchen. We all agreed that these were as light, tasty and fluffy as potato dumplings could be. I think that baking the potatoes (rather than boiling them) makes for lighter gnocchi; they don't absorb all that water and can just merge gracefully with the flour and egg.

The lost art of gnocchi rolling

If you don't have a neat ridged gnocchi board, you can use a fork to make distinctive grooves in each dumpling. However, you will miss out on the pleasure of feeling just like an Italian mama.

Potato Rosemary Gnocchi
Serves 6, generously
Adapted from a recipe by Charlie Palmer

3 large baking potatoes, about 2 pounds total
2 egg yolks
2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
3 tablespoons olive oil (if sauteeing)

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Poke the potatoes a few times with a fork and place directly on the oven rack. Bake 25 –30 minutes, until fork-tender. When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins and push them through a food mill or ricer into a large bowl.

Add the salt and egg yolk, and 2 cups of flour and mix together. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour if needed, until a soft (but not sticky), smooth dough forms.

Divide the dough into portions the size of your hand, and roll each into a rope about 1/2-inch thick. Cut into 1-inch lengths. If you’re inclined, roll each gnocchi firmly over a gnocchi board or the concave side of a fork. Arrange the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet as you go.

Bring a large stockpot of water to a boil; drop the gnocchi in batches into the water and boil until they bob to the surface, about 3 minutes.

At this point, you can sauce them up as you please, or lay them out on a tray and freeze them (transfer them to zippered bags when they’re solid) so that you have an emergency late-night gnocchi stash on hand .
If you want to sauté the gnocchi, set up an ice bath with a colander set into a large bowl of ice water. Remove the gnocchi from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and immediately drop them into the colander. Drain and toss with the olive oil.

Just before serving, sauté the gnocchi in melted butter, garlic and some spinach or dandelion greens. Pass the grated Parmesan.

Gnocchi getting a toss in the pan

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Copyright (c) 2007 FamilyStyle Food


Bellini Valli said...

The first time I ever had gnocchi I was a teenager at an Italian restaurant in Wasaga Beach. This past fall the entire old town burnt down...not that it was really a town but with arcades and amusements. A piece of history gone I suppose, but, I will always remember the gnocchi!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I love everything about making gnocchi from mixing the dough, to forming the pasta, to eating and eating and eating more of them. Did I mention I love eating them? ;) Yours look perfect, Karen. Hope 2008 has been good to you so far!

Jenny said...

Those gnocci look so yummy. I've never made them from scratch, but I bet they are wonderful. Sounds like you and your family had a wonderful time together over the holidays. What better way to spend time together than in the kitchen! Hope we get to meet at a great cook-off in 2008!

Karen said...

Wow, Bellini, what a story.
Somehow those gnocchi will seem even better.

Susan,it is fun making gnocchi, isn't it?
When we made these, everyone wanted a turn getting their hands in.
All the best to you in 2008!

Jenny, we had a great time and the gnocchi are defintely worth trying.
I'm working on those chicken recipes next! Cheers!

Ronnie (http://aroundthetable.typepad.com) said...

The gnocchi looks perfect and the family fun is to be admired. Congrats on maintaining your food and family traditions

Emiline said...

You are always an inspirations, Karen. These gnocchi look great!
I've tried making some out of butternut squash, but the "dough" is always too wet, so I end up adding a lot of flour.

Hope you had a good holiday. That's wonderful that you get to spend so much time with family.

L said...

I am so sad that we are now home and not making gnocchi together this weekend. Should I order the paddle from Amazon?

Lisa said...

Oh, well those look just scrumptious. I keep promising myself to try my hand at gnocchi again (there was a failed attempt a million years ago); maybe your recipe will get me to, er, pull the trigger.

Karen said...

Ronnie, we're really fortunate to have the best people in the world for family. It's what everything is all about.

Hi Emiline - I hope you had a great holiday season, too!

I've made sweet potato gnocchi, and they don't turn out as light. It must have some to do with the higher moisture content in the sweet potatoes and/or squash.

Hey, you. We made trout for dinner tonight, and we hardly ever do, in the spirit of the F/F kitchen.
I'm sending you a gnocchi board!

Yes, Lisa, do pull the trigger.
It really is fun once you get "rolling" along. Enjoy....

Lore said...

If there is something that I don't get enough of those are gnocchi. Thank you so much Karen for sharing your variation!

Squishy said...

Just curious, what is a Roto Rooster? I never thought of baking potatoes before for Gnocchi, thanks for the tip :)

Karen said...

Lore, you're very welcome. Thanks for visiting.

Squishy, Roto Rooter is a plumbing franchise here in the States - they come and snake out our nasty drain clogs. Nice, huh?