In The Italian Kitchen, acclaimed chef and cookbook author Marco Canora teaches viewers to cook classic Italian dishes. Gnocchi -- the Italian dumplings generally made with a mixture of potato and flour -- can range from light and airy to dense and lumpy. Marco has a few tricks for making the former.
Marco uses russet potatoes (such as Idaho) because their high starch content makes for fluffier gnocchi (this is also what makes them great for mashed potatoes). He starts by poking holes in the potatoes, which allows steam to escape and reduces the water content in the flesh, which in turn cuts down on the need for extra flour in the dough that can lead to leaden dumplings. He bakes the potatoes in a 350 F. oven until they're soft (1 to 1 1/2 hours) and then scoops out the flesh with a spoon.
Marco passes the potato flesh through a ricer, which breaks it into small (rice-like) pieces that he spreads on a clean, dry work surface (if you don't have a ricer, you can use a fine-holed food mill). He then sprinkles an even blanket of flour over the potatoes, and uses a dough scraper (or, as he calls it, a "bench scraper") to cut the flour into the potatoes. (Two knives can also be used instead of a dough scraper.) He points out that the potato absorbs the flour -- when you don't see white flour anymore, you know it's time for the next addition of flour. After repeating the process with the scraper, he forms the dough into a ball and presses it onto a heavily floured surface, then sprinkles more flour over the flattened dough. He folds the dough, flattens it again, and repeats the process until all of the flour is incorporated. (Marco warns against kneading the dough, which makes the gnocchi chewy and tough.) When all of the flour is incorporated, he shapes the gnocchi into a log and presses it on all sides to remove any air pockets. He then slices the dough into pieces that he rolls into cylinders about a half inch thick. These cylinders are then cut into individual dumplings.
While bringing a large pot of of heavily salted water to a boil, Marco makes the sauce: He coarsely chops fresh sage, which he heats with about an ounce (two tablespoons) of water in a skillet to make a "sage tea." When most of the liquid has evaporated, he reduces the heat to low and adds two sticks of butter, one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly. He then cooks the gnocchi in the boiling water, and, when they float to the top, he scoops them out with a slotted spoon and adds them to the sauce for about 30 seconds.
To finish the gnocchi, he adds Parmigiano Reggiano and freshly ground black pepper and swirls to combine -- the dish is served with additional parmesan and optional sea salt.
Get the Recipe for Gnocchi with Sage-Butter Sauce.