The key to making superlight gnocchi that won’t sink in your stomach is to roast, rather than boil, the potatoes—roasting prevents them from becoming waterlogged. Once the potatoes are cooked, immediately peel and pass them through a ricer to release the steam and remove lumps. (Waiting for the potatoes to cool will make for heavy gnocchi.) But be forewarned: They don’t call them “hot potatoes” for nothing. Italian grandmas who have been making gnocchi for years, like Paola Bagnatori, don’t need to wear rubber gloves for this step. But for those of us who don’t have asbestos fingers, we recommend them. You can watch Paola prepare this recipe with her granddaughter Isabella Ross in our Cooking with Grandma video.
Special equipment: Investing in a potato ricer is invaluable for all potato mashing chores. It creates a consistency unattainable with a regular potato masher.
Game plan: Before tackling the gnocchi, start preparing the Tomato-Porcini Sauce. While the mushrooms slowly heat up in water, roast the potatoes. Then rice the potatoes and begin gnocchi-making. After the gnocchi are formed, return to making the sauce. Finally, boil the gnocchi and top with the sauce.
Extra tip: Raw gnocchi freeze exceptionally well. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet, making sure they’re not touching. Set the pan in the freezer until the gnocchi are frozen solid, so they won’t stick together when stored. Pop each gnocchi off the baking sheet and place in a resealable freezer bag. Keep in the freezer for no more than a month. To cook, toss the frozen gnocchi into boiling water and cook as instructed below. (Do not let them thaw before cooking.)
- 1Heat the oven to 450°F.
- 2Fill a large pot with about 9 quarts of cold water and bring to a boil. Stir in enough salt so that the water tastes salty, about 6 tablespoons kosher salt or 3 tablespoons fine salt. Keep warm until ready to cook the gnocchi.
- 3Set the potatoes on the oven rack and bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 45 minutes.
- 4Remove the potatoes from the oven, immediately cut them in half lengthwise, and scoop out the pulp over a large bowl. You will have about 8 cups. (Use rubber gloves or a kitchen towel when handling the potatoes; they are hot.) Quickly work the pulp through a ricer set over a baking sheet, spreading the riced potatoes across the sheet to release steam. Let sit until the potatoes are cool enough to handle.
- 5Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Using a fork, stir in 1/2 cup of the flour. Then stir in another 1/2 cup flour. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Gradually knead in the remaining 1 1/2 cups flour. Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape into a 6-by-4-inch loaf. Cut the loaf into 1-inch strips and roll 1 strip into a cylinder about 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the cylinder into 1-1/4-inch pieces.
- 6Test the gnocchi: Return the water to a boil and drop 2 or 3 gnocchi in. Cook for a minute longer after they rise to the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes total. If the gnocchi fall apart, add more flour to the dough, 1/4 cup at a time, until the gnocchi hold together when boiled. Repeat shaping the dough into a loaf, cutting strips, rolling cylinders, and cutting into small gnocchi pieces. Using a floured fork, press the tines downward into each gnocchi so it curls around the fork.
- 7Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on two generously floured baking sheets. (The gnocchi are best cooked immediately, but they can stand floured and loosely covered by a kitchen towel for up to 4 hours before cooking. If serving past 4 hours, the gnocchi should be frozen right after they are formed; see “Extra tip” above.)
- 8Boil the gnocchi in the salted water, stirring gently with a spoon, for a minute longer after they rise to the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes total. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the floating gnocchi to a platter. Spoon just enough sauce to lightly cover the gnocchi, 1/2 cup at a time. Dot with the butter and sprinkle with fresh Parmesan. Serve immediately.