Gnocchi are easily one of my absolute my favorite foods. No matter where we are, if I see gnocchi on the menu I have to order them. I’m not sure where this obsession came from, but I just can not pass them up. The troubling thing is, I’ve never been able to made a good batch of gnocchi at home. I’ve tried multiple times, only to be met with disappointment.
The first time I tried to make them I was making dinner for my husband (then boyfriend). It was one of the first times I had cooked for him and I was so excited to share my favorite dish. After taking all the time to mash the potatoes, make the dough and form the gnocchi, I placed them into the boiling water and they disintegrated almost immediately. Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed and embarrassed.
It took awhile for me to build up the confidence to try making gnocchi again, and my next attempt was not much better. The dough still wasn’t right, and, even worse, I ended up accidentally dropping a whole potato down the sink drain. In my ignorance, I figured “no big deal, just run the disposal.” Well, lesson learned that an entire potato will NOT go down the disposal. I ended up clogging the sink and eventually overflowing it.
I had all but given up on homemade gnocchi when I was reading through a book my husband gave me for Christmas this year. The Geometry of Pasta called gnocchi “perhaps the easiest pasta to make.” Well, I beg to differ, but I certainly couldn’t give up such an “easy” pasta. So, this weekend I entered the kitchen, mentally prepared for a complete disaster, only to surprise myself with my first successful batch of homemade gnocchi.
Through all of these attempts I’ve learned that one very important aspect of this recipe is to test one or two of the gnocchi before dumping the whole batch in the water. It’s best to do this before you’ve started forming each individual gnocchi. If you test one and it disintegrates, add more flour to your dough. Trust me, this can save you from a lot of disappointment.
Gnocchi with meat sauce
For the gnocchi dough:
2 cups flour
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 large russet potatoes
1 teaspoon salt
For the sauce:
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 lb ground beef
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 28oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black better
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 teaspoons dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Make the gnocchi:
Add your potatoes to boiling water and cook under tender (until you can easily poke them with a knife or fork). Drain the potatoes and let them cool enough to touch them. Once the potatoes have cooled, remove the skins and mash them really well.
In a separate bowl, combine your flour, salt and eggs. Add your mashed potatoes to the flour and eggs and mix until smooth and well combined. Note: it’s important that your potatoes are cooled before adding them to the mixture to avoid curdling the eggs.
Once it’s all combined take a small portion of the dough and roll it into a log about 1 centimeter thick. Cut the log into little squares and test one of the squares in boiling water. It should keep it’s shape and float to the surface in about 2 minutes. If it doesn’t, add more flour and try again. Once you’ve got the right consistency form the rest of your gnocchi, lightly pressing each one with your finger to create a little well for your sauce. Boil the gnocchi for about 3 minutes.
Make the sauce:
In a saucepan on medium-low, heat add your olive oil and garlic. Let the garlic cook for about two minutes then add your chopped onion, salt and pepper. About five minutes after adding the onion add your ground beef, breaking it up into very small chunks. Let the beef cook until it’s browned, about 15 minutes. Next add your crushed tomatoes and the rest of your spices.
Lower to a simmer and cook the sauce for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. All the flavors will cook slowly together to a perfect deliciousness. Serve on top of gnocchi with some pecorino romano and enjoy!