To egg or not is the question good cooks ignore when making perfect potato dumplings, known as gnocchi in Italy.
The addition of eggs is associated with Alsace and Piedmont where the technique aids the kneading process, but produces harder gnocchi.
The Alsace version calls for larger pieces, shaped between two spoons. A ratio of 2:1 raw grated potatoes to cooked puréed potatoes is mixed with two eggs and sufficient flour to make a smooth paste.
These gnocchi are seasoned with salt and pepper and a pinch of nutmeg.
In Veneto expert gnocchi makers select potatoes that will not absorb too much flour and hold their shape while cooking. A 4:1 ratio of boiling potatoes to white flour should produce the light fluffy effect demanded by gnocchi aficionados but beware, there are some difficulties.
Marcella Hazan gives one of the best descriptions for shaping Veneta gnocchi using the prongs of a fork.
She recommends small gnocchi, 2.5 x 2 cm pieces, which are pressed against the inside prongs and flipped toward the handle of the fork.
‘When gnocchi are shaped in this manner, the middle section is thinner and becomes more tender in cooking, while the ridges become grooves for the sauce to cling to.’
In Slovakia, where they marry old potatoes to a tangy sheep’s cheese called bryndza, the debate is also a matter of preference.
The traditional method for making bryndzové halušky is without eggs and a high potato to flour ratio of 5 to 1.
Then try eating bryndzové halušky with a 3 to 1 ratio made with egg, coated with grated cheese and sour cream, and served with more cream!
500 g Agria / Bintje / Desirée potatoes, peeled, grated to a purée 300 g Bryndza/sheep's cheese, grated 250 g smoked bacon, cubed 200 ml smetana/sour cream (optional) 100 g flour 1 egg (optional) Salt, large pinch Water, for boiling
In a large bowl work potatoes, flour and salt (and if using the egg) into a light dough until it comes away from the edges of the bowl. Rub or cut into small dumplings.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, add the dumplings, cook until they rise to the surface, about ten minutes.
Drain, retaining the cooking liquid.
Spoon 100ml of the liquid into a bowl with the cheese, fork and whisk into a thin sauce.
If desired mix half of the sour cream into the cheese sauce.
Fry the bacon until the fat runs, drain the fat and crisp for three minutes, turning constantly.
Arrange the halušky in a bowl, cover with the bryndza sauce, top with the bacon.
Serve with remaining sour cream.
Every Italian will tell you quietly that the secret to gnocchi is hidden in the choice of potato.
These would be the varieties of Agate, Agria, Amber, Arizona, Chopin, Finka, Marabel, Monalisa, Universa and Vivaldi grown in Viterbo, between Umbria and Tuscany.
The moderate Lake Bolsena climate and potassium-rich volcanic soils produce potatoes with a pasty consistency, ideal for preparing gnocchi.
That secret is out.
Since 1977 an annual Gnocchi Festival has been held in St. Lorenzo Nuovo.
900 g Patata dell'Alto Viterbese potatoes, boiled whole in skins, cooled 250 g flour 10 g salt Water, for boiling Parmigiano/pecorino, grated fine, for dressing
Pass potatoes through a fine colander or potato masher.
Add half the salt salt.
On a clean surface combine potatoes with flour into a pasty dough.
Roll into a sausage 5cm thick, cut into 2cm slices.
Press each piece with the handle of a knife, to form a cup shape.
Bring a large saucepan with water and remaining salt to a rolling boil.
Add gnocchi in batches.
When they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon.
Serve with a dressing of cheese.
Gnocchi di Castagne al Pesto
Sweet and rich.
700 g potatoes, baked, mashed 100 g strong white flour 100 g chestnut flour 1 egg Salt, pinch White pepper, pinch
Pesto 100 g basil leaves 100 ml olive oil 40 g Parmigiano 40 g Toscano Pecorino 30 g pine nuts 1 garlic clove Salt, pinch
Combine potatoes, the two flours, egg and salt in a large bowl. On a floured surface roll into a sausage 5cm thick, cut into 2cm slices. Bring a large saucepan with salt and water to a rolling boil. Add gnocchi in batches. When they rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl. Toss in the pesto.
A whole different potato dumpling.
300 g American (sweet) potatoes 200 g flour 100 g butter, softened 1 egg 30 g hard cheese, grated 30 g icing sugar 10 g cinnamon, ground
Bake potatoes in 160°C oven for 45 minutes, peel and mash. Leave to cool. In a large bowl mix potatoes with the egg and flour. Shape into gnocchi. Bring to the boil in a pot of hot water. Reduce heat. When gnocchi rise to the surface they are ready. Melt the butter in a large saucepan, fry the cinnamon for ten seconds, add sugar and grana. Toss maneghi in the spicy-sweet butter.
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