Every culture has their version of a dumpling, with very good reason… they’re yet another example of cucina povera, where ingenuity turns a few modest ingredients into a sum much larger than it’s parts.
Whenever I’m in an Italian restaurant and gnocchi is listed on the menu, like a rare-food-find-seeking-missile I zero in on it. With great anticipation, I ask the waiter… “are the gnocchi homemade…?” and hold my breath. When made by hand and with a light touch, they are absolutely heavenly little pillows of potato dumpling. A classic, not always easy to come by, if you do see them on a menu and they’re homemade…. don’t hesitate. Then tell me how much you loved them!
While most gnocchi recipes will tell you to boil the potatoes – I urge you to microwave them (if you don’t have a microwave you could also bake them in the oven). There will be less moisture which means less flour needed and also less mixing/kneading. All this translates into light as a feather little dumplings.
My Mom would make the Polish version called ‘kluski’ and like all things she made, they’re were exceptional. I remember the large wooden board she used, 3-sided and open on one end. (I’d give anything to have that board today!) She every so lightly would mix the mountains of cooked potato, flour and egg – to feed our large family. To this day, I don’t know how she managed it all… the kids, the house, the farm… I can still see her cooking on a wood burning stove. Talk about talent!!
Her kluski tasted every bit as fantastic as any version of Italian gnocchi I’ve ever had, or made. Instead of a tomato sauce, she served them with copious amounts of fried onions & chunks of side pork. Talk about hearty. Comforting. Filling. There! Even as a child, I knew about cucina povera… just in a different language.
I recently made these with clients as part of an interactive cook date and can honestly say, we were all delighted with the results. Not only was the lesson fun, it went by very fast as we chopped, mixed and simmered…. and learned a little about each other. The gnocchi mixing is a bit on the messy side, so there are few photographs taken. Both gnocchi and tomato sauce made turned out absolutely delicious – topped with Parmigiano Reggiano and fresh basil. Light. Fluffy. Perfetto~ If you feel daunted trying a recipe like this, get a helper. Pour some wine. Above all else have fun on all your culinary journeys and remember…. what you’re feeling when cooking, does come out in your food. This will make about 2 baking trays full (see photo below) so you may want to freeze some.
2 lb russet potatoes
1 cup all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
1 large pinch salt
Scrub the potatoes and pierce them a couple times with a skewer. Microwave until soft; approx. 8 -10 minutes (depending on the power of your microwave) and let the potatoes cool until you can easily handle them, but make sure they’re still warm.
Peel the potatoes and put through a ricer or food mill, right onto a clean counter that you’ve lightly floured.
Sprinkle three quarters of the flour over the potatoes and make a well in the center. Add the beaten egg and salt to the well, and using a fork start to draw in the flour – just like making pasta.
Now using your hands, bring the dough together, very lightly kneading into a large ball – if the dough is sticky, lightly sprinkle on more of the reserved flour.
Roll tennis ball sized amounts of dough into 34 inch diameter ropes and cut into 1 inch pieces, using the back edge of a small paring knife. Roll one edge along the tines of a fork, making the characteristic grooves.
Form all the gnocchi, placing on parchment or flour lined baking sheets.
Cook in a large pot of boiling salted water; it should only take a few minutes – they will float when cooked.
Serve Italian style with your fave tomato sauce & Parmigiano.
Serve Polish style with fried onions & side pork or bacon.
Lesson: Gnocchi. How beautiful are these!!
Lunch is served!
Served both Polish & Italian style, these kluski are from the Polonez Deli in St. Catharines.