…they pull me back in.
Actually, I’m excited to blog this recipe for Potato Gnocchi with Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce, one of our favorite things to make when we can find the time to do it. This time it was for Kristy’s birthday last month.
So, there’s that awful scene in The Godfather III where Andy Garcia is oozing his charm on Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter who is neither old enough, nor alluring enough, nor competent enough as an actress to pull this scene off at this point in her career arc. For the uninitiated (I refuse to link to a youtube clip), the medium the elder Don-wannabe uses to charm his prey is gnocchi. We’re supposed to be seduced by the mastery Mr. Garcia demonstrates in rolling the gnocchi across the tines of the fork while little Sofia looks on in heated amazement, but frankly I was just creeped out.
Still, that was my first (and I suspect many people’s first) exposure to the way you’re supposed to roll gnocchi. It’s also the way most of the cookbooks tell you to do it. I’m here to tell you it’s nonsense. You need not pay homage to the disappointing final entry in the still-greatest movie trilogy of all time to make fantastic gnocchi. The fork is important–you want to put grooves in the pasta to give the sauce something to stick to, but it’s easier, faster, and equally effective to roll out the pasta into tubes, make indentations all the way along with the fork, then cut it into pieces and pinch indentations in each piece with your finger as you cut it. Faster, and less creepy.
When we make gnocchi, Kristy’s in charge of the sauce and I do the pasta. The sauce takes much less time, so you can save it until the end. It starts with melted butter, red pepper flakes, and vodka.
Next comes cream and parmesan and romano cheese, and lots of it.
The sauce is fantastic, with the red pepper spice building slowly through the meal, like it’s supposed to. It’s not overpoweringly spicy from bite to bite, but when you’re done, you know you’ve eaten some potent stuff.
On to the pasta. When the potatoes are done boiling, you can peel them with your fingers by just rubbing off the skin. There’s a tradeoff here–the hotter the potatoes, the easier they peel but the more it hurts your fingers.
Once they’re all peeled, a quick shot with a food processor, then add the flour and knead it into a dough ball.
You don’t need to knead it too much at this stage, just so it’s manageable to work with. Then start breaking it off into smallish balls. Keep plenty of flour on your counter and on your hands–this part is sticky and very messy. Now knead the small balls some more, adding flour as necessary to get it to a good doughy consistency where it will hold together well enough to roll into tubes. I think it’s easier to start light on the flour when you first mix and knead it, then just add flour generously at this second step.
Each time you get one of the little balls kneaded, roll it out into a tube that’s just a little thinner than you want your gnocchi’s to be. They’ll swell in the water. Put the tubes on a well-floured cookie sheet or something as you go. Then take each tube, put the indentations in it with the fork, and cut it into pieces. Or do it the traditional way, I guess.
Then take batches of a dozen or so, add them to boiling water, then scoop them out when they start to float. Some people will tell you that the cooking time is essential to good gnocchi and you should test them to see if they need to float for 8 seconds or 12, but I don’t think it makes much difference, and I can’t catch the little buggers fast enough to be that precise as they swirl in boiling water anyway. As soon as they float, they’ll be ready for the sauce.
Like I said, this is one of our favorite recipes. We’ve made it many times over the years, and while we haven’t seen much need to enhance the original recipe, I think I’ve made big strides in making a smaller mess in the kitchen as I cook.
This is an easy four-spooner for Kristy and I. Four for Mr. N as well. As for Miss A, she said “Nine. Wait, which one was the gnocchi?” I showed her a picture. “Oh. Ten hundred ninety eight.” We’ll put down four spoons for her. She ate it all up when we made it.
This is also a fantastic recipe for leftovers. There’s no reason not to make twice as much as you plan to eat, then throw the rest in the fridge with the leftover sauce.
Print this Recipe: Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce
Print this Recipe: Potato Gnocchi