Just when I thought I was out…

…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

64 thoughts on “Just when I thought I was out…

  1. fati's recipes says:

    Gnocchiiiii! I’m so proud of you for making it πŸ˜‰ It’s always been that dreaded thing for me, because I’ve seen it on TV – and it can go really wrong if it’s not done properly πŸ™‚
    Maybe I can follow this recipe to make it, and successfully, from the first go…? πŸ™‚


  2. helene dsouza says:

    Hi Kristy!

    We dont make gnocchi from where I come from but something else of the potato dough (gnocchi i north italian and its near by). They are looong noodles and I had written a post about it some months back. The rolling part is not that important in my opinion, but more the consistency of the dough. Yours looks super tempting and maybe I should try making my own gnocchi one of these days.

    By the way I love the god father trilogy as well!! =D


    • ChefDad says:

      Heh. I wish potato gnocchi would be something you could get NOW! I remember the first time we made it we lived near Wrigley field. Then we went to a Cubs day game with some friends a week or so later, then a bar, then decided after a cocktail or three at about 8:00 or so that we should make gnocchi again for our friends. I think we sat down to eat at midnight.


  3. spicegirlfla says:

    Oh Mike! All those years my Italian aunts and mom made the gnocchi one by one…they should be here today to see how you have just simplified their life! A genius you are! I had no plans on making gnocchi any time soon but I do have to now just to try this method. I do have one comment tho, I worked with a physician from Italy who told me to always bake the potatoes not boil as they would require less flour since the baking makes them drier…does that make sense to you? I’ve started baking my potatoes and I do use less flour. Just a idea since you gave us all a great one. Now my 2nd comment is that I’m now requiring my future hubby to be able to cook like you!!


  4. Three Well Beings says:

    Loved the Godfather reference! You’re so right…I hadn’t thought about it before but I’m quite sure when I saw the movie I may not have had gnocchi. But I sure do remember the scene! How can I resist a dish worthy of Ten Hundred Ninety Eight spoons! I love gnocchi, have never made it, and would really love to perfect the technique. It’s a wonderfully versatile dish! It’s nice to have you share with us. πŸ™‚


  5. Kate@Diethood says:

    AWESOME!! I love gnocchi, but never attempted to make them from scratch.
    The Godfather…I just started humming the melody and now it will be stuck in my head all day. πŸ™‚
    Long time ago my cousin and I sat down in front of the tv to watch the trilogy… we did not move from 8 pm to 4 am. #thosedaysbeforekidsandhusbands πŸ˜‰


    • ChefDad says:

      Nice hashtag. I know Kristy and I had a marathon godfather night somewhere along the line. We may have just watched one, but we started in the wee hours, if memory serves.


  6. Nami | Just One Cookbook says:

    Making gnocci at home at home sounds like a fun activity with the kids. How funny….My mom always boiled potatoes with skin on and she peeled while it’s hot and I thought she’d burn her fingers! She said it’s easy when it’s hot just like you said. This is such a wonderful dinner and I love Kristy’s tomato vodka sauce. Sounds really delicious!


    • ChefDad says:

      The worst part with the heat is when you rub the skin off and the potato kind of crumbles and lets out a bunch of steam and heat from the inside, right onto your fingers. It’s OK if the potato stays together.


  7. Profiteroles & Ponytails says:

    Mike, I wish that my husband would make this for me. I’m wondering if you would rate this in the “difficult” category …. or perhaps just “time-consuming”. This looks like it was well worth the time involved, given that the spoon ratings for off the chart for Miss A and four spoons with the rest of the gang. Oh how I love homemade gnocchi.


    • ChefDad says:

      Do it! It’s really messy and really hard to work with the dough–use lots of flour on your hands and surfaces–but I think getting the sauce right is more important than the pasta. It’s just potatoes and flour.


  8. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles says:

    “I refuse to link to a youtube clip” – heehee… I’m utterly impressed that you make your own gnocchi and your method sounds entirely sensible to me. I can imagine the little buggers moving quickly for sure but it doesn’t sound like much turns on the catch; just look for the float – got it ;-). Love the idea of creating plenty of leftovers for this dish… p.s. Miss A kills me.


  9. Charles says:

    I feel so ashamed – I’ve never seen The Godfather (1, 2 OR 3!)… I feel like I’m missing out on something; hell, even my father has seen it and his head is buried in history books most of the time!

    I adore gnocchi… like, seriously am in love with the stuff. It’s the first dish I ever made for my wife, who wasn’t actually my wife at the time, and wasn’t actually even my girlfriend – we’d been doing laundry down the road and I offered her dinner – aaah, the start of something wonderful. I’ve never made it though… always just bought fresh stuff from the store.

    My first experience with “home-made” gnocchi was when my mother tried (in vain) to make it…. yeah, we had “potato soup” for dinner that night :p. You make it look really easy, and it’s been on my “to do” list for a very long time!


  10. ChgoJohn says:

    I was in a theatre and a couple people actually cheered when Sofia’s character was gunned down. Tough crowd. I love gnocchi and it was a dish Mom taught us to make when we were Mr N’s age. Later, she would teach her grandchildren to make them. Years later, I bought a gnocchi board and she thought it a joke and waste of money but it’s actually a two-fer. I use it to make garganelli, too. πŸ™‚


  11. hotlyspiced says:

    I haven’t watched that Godfather movie. I just hate violent movies but I am a huge Al Pacino fan. I’ve never put vodka in a sauce before. I must try this. A meal like this would be a favourite around our family table I’m sure xx


    • ChefDad says:

      I’m not sure how you can be a Pacino fan and miss the godfather movies…far and away his best stuff of a great career. Marlon Brando at his best too, I think, though you could argue that a little. And James caan. And Robert Duvall. And Diane Keaton, though you could argue that one too.


  12. bakerbynature says:

    This looks like the perfect Sunday night dinner! I’ve always wanted to try making my own gnocchi, and this is the perfect inspiration!


  13. Aimee@clevermuffin says:

    I just adore Ms A’s classification system. If I may – how long does it take you to make the gnocchi from beginning to end? I’ve always shyed away thinking it would be an all day affair, but I’m thinking maybe not?


  14. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen says:

    I love, gnocchi, I got the chance to make it in a cooking class once, but our didn’t cook well and it was so doughy. Is there a trick to knowing for sure when it’s cooked through? Do you just try one?? I love your idea with just smushing the fork along the gnocchi rope all in one go!!


  15. sallybr says:

    I simply cannot believe I never thought of rolling the tube, making the indentations and THEN cutting it. Genius. Pure genius. Would you consider joining our lab? we need people like you. We do.

    wow, loved this post, and cannot wait to make gnocchi this way – between me and you, when I make gnocchi I skip the indentations – I know, I should go sit at a dark corner for a month.



  16. Bam's Kitchen says:

    I have not tried making gnocchi at home yet but it is on my bucket list to do. I usually always have it with the traditional white sauce so a lovely vodka sauce is a nice comforting change. So from start to finish how long did it take for you to prepare? Take Care, BAM


  17. A_Boleyn says:

    I’ve never had gnocchi … maybe I’ll just pick up a bag of the frozen stuff at the Italian grocery store and see if it’s worth all the trouble to make them. πŸ™‚


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