cooking with Nonna and a potato gnocchi recipe
When my Nonna arrived in Canada in her early 20's, she took a job sewing sports equipment at Cooper Sports. As she tells it, the place was absolutely loaded with Italian immigrants from every part of the country working every conceivable position. The women would chitchat throughout the day,- often about food,- and my Nonna would bemoan the fact that she had left Italy before learning how to make certain specialties. My Nonna learned how to cook from her mother, who learned from her mother, and so on, but most of the food that was a staple while she was growing up was "peasant food". They came from a very poor family and, as a result, couldn't afford to make the more expensive or elaborate dishes very often. When my Nonna explained that this was why she wasn't terribly familiar with certain dishes to the Italian women at Cooper sports, they collectively decided that it just wasn't acceptable and taught her themselves.
Many older generation Italians cook the regional dishes that they were brought up on and pass on those same recipes to the next generations (Sicilians cook Sicilian dishes, Romans cook Roman dishes and so on). My Nonna learned Calabrese cooking from her mother, but also had the opportunity to learn how to cook regional specialties from women who emigrated from all over Italy. And that, my friends, is what makes my Nonna's cooking unique.
Every Italian has their own gnocchi recipe. Some like it fluffy, some like it doughy,- its all a matter or personal taste. But, if I may say so myself, My Nonna's gnocchi is the ultimate. Dense enough that it has a bit of a bite to it, while still not being so dense that a plate puts you out of commission for the next two hours.
It is a LOT of work, but it's absolutely worth it. Nothing compares to homemade gnocchi! Quick suggestion: Get an assistant to help you with the rolling and cutting process. Otherwise, it can seem like an eternity when making larger batches. Also, invest in a gnocchi board or basket,- it's way faster and produces better results than using a fork. My Nonna uses a basket that she brought over from Italy, but you can buy similar tools in kitchen supply stores or online.
Yield: Serves 8 Time required: 2hrs prep time, 5 minutes cook time
- 1450g yukon gold potatoes
- 1000g all purpose flour
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup of yellow cornmeal
1. Peel the potatoes, ensuring that you remove all of the imperfections as they will discolour the gnocchi. Cut the potatoes into quarters and rinse.
2. Place the potatoes in a pot and fill with enough cold water to cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil and continue to boil until the potatoes are cooked through/a knife inserted into a potato piece goes in without resistance.
3. Strain the cooked potatoes and rinse with a bit of cold water. Don't overdo it, as you want the potatoes to still be warm for the next step.
4. Place 870g of flour in a circular pile on a large cutting board or kitchen island. Run the potatoes through a potato ricer directly onto the pile of flour, ensuring that the riced potatoes are completely smooth and chunk-free.
5. Make a well in the centre of the potato/flour pile. Beat two eggs thoroughly. Pour into the well.
6. Knead the flour, potato and egg mixture together, drawing the outside flour into the centre, until the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough is smooth.
7. Cut the dough into ten pieces. Roll each piece into a log approximately the width of your index finger. Use a bit of flour while rolling to ensure that the dough doesn't stick to the board beneath.
8. Sprinkle the logs with flour and cut each log into 3cm wide pieces. Sprinkle the pieces with flour to ensure that they don't stick together.
9. Holding a gnocchi board or basket with the stripes running towards you, roll each dough piece towards you firmly, from top to bottom/ in a downwards motion.
10. Place the finished gnocchi pieces in a single layer on a baking sheet dusted with yellow cornmeal. Freeze overnight. Transfer to a sealed container or a ziplock bag and keep in the freezer until ready to cook.
11. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, fill a large pot with water, adding a bit of salt for taste and a bit of oil to ensure that they don't stick while cooking. When the water has come to a boil, add the frozen gnocchi and cook until the until the gnocchi floats. Strain, add the desired sauce, and serve.
*Note: Gnocchi can be made ahead of time and kept, frozen, for up to two months.