And now back to our regularly scheduled letter of the alphabet “V” with Marc Vetri’s Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto (book number 15). When it comes to pasta, this book is simply indispensable. More than just a cookbook, Vetri explains the science of pasta and its various components, including, for example, a super useful chart showing the comparative protein percentage, gluten strength, and elasticity of 15 different types of wheat flour. On the cookbook side, the book is encyclopedic with clear, easy-follow-instructions for making a wide variety of doughs for fresh, extruded, and hand shaped pasta, how to forms those doughs into myriad pasta shapes, and, of course recipes for using that pasta illustrated by mouthwatering photos that make me want to eventually cook and devour every recipe in the book.
We had already made a few recipes using the basic egg yolk dough, which uses a mind boggling nine egg yolks to about a cup and a half of flour, so we decided to try something different this time. I had made some very tasty, bright red beet gnocchi a few years ago, but, though we’ve both eaten them out frequently, neither of us had ever made classic potato gnocchi. Vetri’s recipe in the book is accompanied by a delicious sounding corn crema and corn salad, but, since fresh corn is months away, we took his advice to simply dress the gnocchi with butter and grated Parmesan for our first time.
As you may imagine, we started by boiling two russet potatoes. Vetri says that it’s best to make the gnocchi dough while the potatoes are still warm, so I peeled the potatoes as soon as I could handle them without burning myself, chopped them coarsely, and put them through the ricer onto a large, lightly floured cutting board. After spreading the riced potatoes on the board and letting them rest a few minutes for moisture to evaporate, I sprinkled them with grated Parmesan, freshly grated nutmeg, salt, and pepper and cut in the seasonings with a bench scraper. Then we worked in beaten egg and 00 flour until the dough came together.
After a quick kneading, we divided the dough into four parts, rolled them into half inch diameter ropes, and cut the ropes into individual gnocchi which we rolled on a lightly floured gnocchi board to give the gnocchi their characteristic grooves and shape. It was really nice to finally use the gnocchi board that has been languishing in the back of a drawer for the past two or three years.
We apparently made the gnocchi quite a bit bigger than they should have been, since we only ended up with 100 rather than the 200 the recipe suggests we should have gotten. We immediately put a quarter of the gnocchi into simmering salted water until they plumped up, shocked them in ice water to stop the cooking, sautéed them with butter until they turned golden brown, plated them, and sprinkled them with freshly grated Parmesan. They made a lovely light dinner accompanied by mixed greens with a mustardy vinaigrette.
We flash froze the rest of the gnocchi and divided them into three portions for future quick dinners. One lesson that I learned was that we should have chilled the gnocchi for a bit before cooking them. The first batch we cooked puffed up nicely, but were a little mashed potatoey around the edges. I’m sure that refrigerating them for half an hour or more before cooking them would have helped maintain their integrity. Still, they were really tasty, and we have three more meals worth in the freezer.
Up next: The Herbfarm Cookbook.