Potato Gnocchi

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 11/2 hours

Gnocchi should be ethereal. If all you’ve ever had are hard and chewy, try these. With just a bit of practice you’ll be making the lightest, fluffiest gnocchi you’ve ever eaten.

1 pound baking (russet or Idaho) potatoes

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

About 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

Put the potatoes in a pot with water to cover and salt it; adjust the heat so the water simmers and cook until the potatoes are quite tender, about 45 minutes. Drain and peel (use a pot holder or towel to hold the potatoes and peel with a small knife; it will be easy). Rinse the pot and once again fill it with salted water and bring to a boil.

Use a fork, potato masher, or ricer to mash or rice the potatoes in a bowl, along with some salt and pepper. Add about 1/2 cup of flour and stir; add more flour until the mixture forms a dough you can handle. Knead for a minute or so on a lightly floured surface. Pinch off a piece of the dough and boil it to make sure it will hold its shape; if it does not, knead in a bit more flour. The idea is to make a dough with as little additional flour and kneading as possible.

Roll a piece of the dough into a rope about 1/2 inch thick, then cut the rope into 1-inch lengths; traditionally, you would spin each of these pieces off the tines of a fork to score it lightly. As each gnoccho is ready, put it on a sheet of wax paper; do not allow them to touch.

A few at a time, add the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir. A minute after they rise to the surface, the gnocchi are done; remove with a slotted spoon. Put in a bowl and sauce or reheat in butter within a few minutes; these do not keep well.

Variations

Spinach Gnocchi. A lovely green color and subtle spinach flavor: Add 10 ounces fresh spinach or 5 ounces frozen spinach and a pinch of nutmeg if you like. Stem and wash the fresh spinach; steam it, then drain, squeeze (get as much water out as possible), and chop it very finely. Add it to the potatoes along with the nutmeg.

Eggplant Gnocchi. Great with Fast Tomato Sauce: Add 1 pound eggplant, roasted, flesh scooped out and mashed, to the potatoes.