Crispy Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto

Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto

This has been an inordinately hectic week for me. On top of trying to cram as much into each day as I can, I’m tired… like, the kind of fatigue that makes you want to crawl back under the covers ever minute of every day, tired.

It’s beginning to put a serious cramp in my style.

So instead of doing what I’m supposed to, I’ve taken to watching a lot of youtube videos. Some people might call that procrastinating, but I prefer to call it “having priorities”. That is, if you consider watching tiny hamsters eat tiny burritos a priority. Which I do.

Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto

Some days, you just need to do anything but what you’re supposed to be doing. Some days, you just need to say “screw this” and go make some gnocchi instead. That someday is today.

Making gnocchi is kind of like doing arts and crafts, only you get to eat it when you’re done. Sure, it can be a little messy, and a bit time consuming, but the rewards are more than worth it. If you’re supposed to be doing something else today, I highly recommend spending the afternoon rolling and shaping dough instead. There’s something so zen about shirking responsibilities in style.

Now, I’m not Italian. Not even close. In fact, I can’t even do an Italian accent without making a fool of myself.

I can, however, make some pretty fine gnocchi. Don’t ask me where I got this talent from, but despite gnocchi being one of those foods that can be tricky to master, I’ve never had much of a problem with it. This was my first time making gnocchi without any eggs, and I was surprised at just how much lighter and fluffier they were. After doing a bit of research, I found that eggless gnocchi might actually be more traditional in Italy than recipes with eggs. Who knew?

For those Italian’s reading this, I’d love to know — how do you make your gnocchi? With eggs, without, or with something else added to the dough (like ricotta)? Let me know in the comments below.

Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto

Crispy Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto
Adapted from Italian grandmothers everywhere — makes about 4 servings

For the gnocchi:
4 large russet potatoes (about 2 lbs)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg (optional)

For serving:
1/2-3/4 cup ramp pesto (recipe here)
1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
freshly shaved parmesan cheese

1.   Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and dry potatoes, then pierce them a few times with a fork or the tip of a knife. Place on a baking sheet, and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until fork tender.
2.   Remove the potatoes from the oven and cut them in half. Allow to cool just enough to handle without burning yourself, and remove the skins (they should come off fairly easily if the potatoes are still hot).
(Bonus: return the potato skins to the baking sheet, drizzle with a bit of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Return to the oven until crispy. Devour.)
3.   Put the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer, or great them on the large side of a box grater. Spread the pile of potato into a thin layer on a cutting board or other clean work surface, and allow to cool completely.
4.   Over the top of the cooled potatoes, sprinkle the flour, salt, and nutmeg. Using your hands, bring the potato mixture together from the edges, and gently knead until it starts to form a rough dough. If the dough feels dry, keep kneading — you’ll be surprised how much moisture is in the potatoes — if it feels sticky, or isn’t holding together, add more flour one TBSP at a time and keep kneading. This might take a little practice to get right, but try not to add any more flour than is necessary to keep the dough from crumbling. My dough required an extra 1/4 cup of flour, but yours may vary depending on your potatoes, and the temperature/humidity of your kitchen.
(To test the consistency of the dough, pull or a marble-sized pieces and roll it in the palm of your hands. It should keep it’s shape, and not crumble too easily. Drop the piece of dough into a pot of boiling water: it should hold together, and rise to the surface after a minute or two. If the ball falls apart, add more flour to the dough and knead a little longer.)
5.   Once the dough is the right consistency, tear off small handfuls and roll each into a long rope about the thickness of a finger, dusting with flour as needed. If the rope becomes too long to work with, cut it in half and work with each half separately. Once all the dough is rolled into ropes, cut each rope into small pieces about the length of the tip of your thumb, and dust lightly with flour to keep them from sticking.
6.   Roll each piece over a gnocchi board, or across the tines of a fork to create grooves. (These grooves are not only for looks, but help hold onto whatever sauce you plan to use. Plus they make you look like a total pro.) Using your thumb, press each gnocchi against the gnocchi board or fork tines to create grooves on one side, and an indentation from your thumb on the other. (See the photo above.) This can be tricky to get the hang of at first, but with a little practice it is easy, and you’ll be able to pick up the pace. Repeat until all of the dough has been shaped.
7. To cook the gnocchi,  you can either boil it in water (salt the water well, then drop the gnocchi in batches so as not to crowd the pan. After 1-2 minutes, the gnocchi will float to the surface, indicating they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon) or you can cook them as I did, fried in butter until the exterior becomes crispy and golden. To do so, melt together 1 TBSP butter and 1 TBSP olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add as many gnocchi as will fit easily in your pan, and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and crispy on one side. Stir/flip the gnocchi, and let cook for another minute or so. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
8.  Toss with ramp pesto, and serve with toasted pine nuts and freshly shaved parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Recipe notes: uncooked gnocchi can be spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and placed in the freezer until frozen, then transferred to a zip-top bag and kept in the freezer for future use. To cook, simply drop frozen gnocchi into boiling water. Gnocchi is done when it floats to the surface. Or, fry gnocchi in butter or olive oil until golden and cooked all the way through.

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8 Responses to Crispy Potato Gnocchi with Ramp Pesto

  1. Abby May 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    That pesto! Swoon. :) Hope you have a relaxing weekend!

  2. ami@naivecookcooks May 12, 2014 at 1:40 pm #

    Looks so tasty!

  3. Amy @ Elephant Eats May 12, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Hehehe, I love the burrito hamster video!! Did you see the new one with the hamster eating a mini slice of pizza?? so cute! This recipes looks amazing…I never think to make gnocci and I totally would never think to make them crispy but that texture sounds so much better than the mushy one you get when boiling. I need to give this a try!

    • Willow May 26, 2014 at 4:45 pm #

      NO I DIDN’T! There need to be more videos of hamsters eating tiny foods. Come internet, let’s make it happen!

  4. movita beaucoup May 13, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    When I was at ballet school, my roommate’s Nonna would send big bags of frozen gnocchi and buckets of her famous sauce to sustain us during the winter. It is the perfect comfort food in my mind! And yet… I haven’t made it myself. What is wrong with me?

    (Actually, maybe I could just get you to make me some.)

    (Seriously. Why am I so lazy?)

    • Willow May 26, 2014 at 4:43 pm #

      You probably could get me to make you some, but you’d have to get me to Canada first. Pretty sure they have rules against mailing foodstuffs and all. Wait a minute, why am I such an enabler of your laziness? Go! Make the gnocchi!

  5. Heather May 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm #

    I need to make this and when I do I will let you know how it turned out! I have been waiting on ramps in my area but no luck yet :( ….this is such a sad thing, I was really looking forward to them this year. Brilliant recipe, sounds like an almost zen like activity as bread making, which of course you know is a fave of mine :)

    • Willow May 26, 2014 at 4:30 pm #

      Ooh, I hope you do make it! I think you’re right, gnocchi is kind of like bread making. Ramps can be so tricky to find — I was really surprised to see them at Whole Foods this year, but most years they aren’t even at the farmer’s market. I think I need to familiarize myself with the woods around my area so I can go ramp hunting next season.

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