Sunday, May 24, 2009

How to Use a Whole Bag of Potatoes

There are only the two of us, so I generally buy potatoes only as needed. Bill has been swooning for lack of mashed potatoes, which really are best made with baked russets. Summer is no time to turn on the oven for just two potatoes. If I just microwaved them one or two at a time, inevitably some poor, lost potato would end up sprouting in the bottom of the veggie bin. What could I do with a bag of 13 good-sized russet potatoes that would allow me to bake them all at once? Time for some new cooking experiments.

The web came to the rescue with many seemingly simple recipes for potato gnocchi. Gnocchi are little Italian dumplings. Like dumplings everywhere, they can be made from a variety of ingredients, a simple version using potatoes, flour, eggs and salt. The pictures of web versions can be a bit intimidating because they seem so evenly shaped. Mine might more appropriately be called "malfatti," Italian slang for poorly shaped dumplings or pasta. No matter, they were very tasty.

  • Cooked russet potatoes, still warm, skins removed.
  • 1 egg for each two medium-large potatoes
  • Enough flour to make a dough you can handle.
  • Salt to taste
Baked potatoes are drier than boiled resulting in less flour being needed to make a dough. Less flour means more potato flavor. Measurements and proportions vary with the weather, size and moisture of potatoes and eggs. I had seven biggish potatoes, 4 large eggs, and added about two-and-a-half cups of sifted flour to get a sticky dough that left the sides of the bowl.

  1. Mash or grate the potatoes by hand. Do not blend or process them. Using a blender makes the potatoes runny which would result in more flour being needed and heavier gnocchi.
  2. Mix the egg into the potatoes.
  3. Work in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough leaves the side of the bowl and can be handled.
  4. Refrigerate the dough a few minutes to stiffen it a bit and make it easier to handle.
  5. To shape the gnocchi, roll pieces of dough into snakes about 3/4 inch in diameter and cut into 3/4 inch pieces. You may then roll these pieces into balls and roll the balls across the tines of a fork, holes of a grater, or wires of a whisk to make ridges in the gnocchi that will better hold sauce.
If you are going to freeze the gnocchi, place them separated from each other on a cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they are completely frozen, put them in meal-sized plastic bags.

To cook the gnocchi, whether frozen or not, bring a pot of water to a boil and gently put the gnocchi in one or two at a time. Make sure the pot is big enough that your gnocchi can poach without touching each other. At first the gnocchi will lie at the bottom of the pan. Move them gently to make sure they are not stuck. Wait until they float and then remove them from the water.

At this point, gnocchi become a wonderful canvas to be painted with sauce, pesto, butter, whatever strikes your fancy.


Gnocchi on Foodista


  1. Gnocchi is so versitile. It makes a great weekend project - just make a ton and freeze. You should try Pumpkin Gnocchi.

    You use canned pumpkin instead of potatoes. The only trick is that you have to remove the water from the canned pumpkin. The best way is to lay out a ton of paper towles on a cookie sheet and spread the can of pumpkin over the top. Then top with more layers of pumpkin and press down. The paper towels hold the water, and the pumpkin peels right off of the paper towels.


  2. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. Add a bit of nutmeg to the gnocchi dough (potato or pumpkin). Its a nice touch.



Imprecise & Inexpensive

Two themes predominate in my approach to cooking. 1. Daily cooking of flavorful food need not be a precise art. 2. You can be an adventurous cook on a budget. Cooking and eating should be fun for both cookers and eaters.