A bit more than a week ago, with the 29th of May looming ahead in the calendar, I had absolutely nutty idea that I should make gnocchi and observe a tradition from my childhood in Argentina: eating gnocchi on the 29th of the month.
Depending on who you ask, the tradition either stems from stretching grocery money as far as possible the day before payday or from an even older Italian tradition having to do with a saint. The way I remember it, you eat gnocchi on the 29th, put money under your dish, and prosperity will come to you. I am not much for superstition, but the tradition is a good excuse for spending a few hours cooking with family and then enjoying the fruits of your labor together.
So, how about making this an ongoing tradition? I think I might do this again next month. All it really requires is a few hours and a handful of cheap ingredients. I looked through a few of my cookbooks and found most recipes call for eggs. My copy of the CIA cookbook (Culinary Institute of America, not the intelligence agency) had an even sillier recipe that called for eggs, extra egg yolks, nutmeg, etc. My attitude is to keep things simple and basic. The most basic recipe is below:
makes enough for 4
- 1lb russet potatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup of all purpose flour
I did say keep it simple, but ideally you need one semi special tool: a potato ricer. A sort of overgrown garlic press that mashes potatoes a nice even soft texture that will make for nicer dough.
Boil your pealed potatoes until they are just tender, pass them through the ricer while they are still hot (if you let them cool you will have a heck of a time doing this, as they'll get harder).
Go ahead and pour out your mound of (now warm) riced potatoes onto your clean kitchen table. Knead the salt and the flour into the potatoes. More or less flour might be needed depending on the moisture of the potatoes, add the flour in slowly until the dough no longer sticks to your hands.
Take a little bit of dough and roll it into a snake shape and then cut it into pieces about an inch long. A little bit of flour can be used to keep it from sticking to your hand, table, knife, etc.
Now take the small pieces of dough and roll them with your thumb against a fork. This will give the gnocchi a curved, shell shape and a ridge decoration on the outside. Flour helps here also to keep the dough from sticking. I used a wooden tool that I believe is actually meant for grating ginger, but worked for my purposes really well.
Lay out your gnocchi on a clean towel directly on your table or on a cookie sheet. It helps to enlist help for the cutting and rolling steps, this is where most of the preparation time goes.
Drop the gnocchi into salted boiling water. When the pasta rises to the top the gnocchi are fully cooked. Scoop them up with a slotted spoon and into your favorite serving dish, add the sauce of your choice, toss together, and enjoy.
Oh. . . and don't forget to put some money under your dish!