Potato Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage

Published September 1, 2011. From Cook's Illustrated.

Why this recipe works:

Making gnocchi is simple: Cook the potatoes; peel and mash; knead the cooked spuds into a dough with a minimum of flour; shape; and boil for a minute. And yet the pitfalls are numerous (lumpy mashed potatoes, too much—or too little—flour, a heavy hand when kneading, and bland flavor). We… read more

Making gnocchi is simple: Cook the potatoes; peel and mash; knead the cooked spuds into a dough with a minimum of flour; shape; and boil for a minute. And yet the pitfalls are numerous (lumpy mashed potatoes, too much—or too little—flour, a heavy hand when kneading, and bland flavor). We wanted a foolproof recipe for impossibly light gnocchi with unmistakable potato flavor. Baking russets (streamlined by parcooking the potatoes in the microwave) produced intensely flavored potatoes—an excellent start to our gnocchi base. To avoid lumps, which can cause gnocchi to break apart during cooking, we turned to a ricer, which gave us a smooth, supple mash. While many recipes offer a range of flour, which ups the chances of overworking the dough (and producing leaden gnocchi), we used an exact amount based on the ratio of potato to flour so that our gnocchi dough was mixed as little as possible. And we found that an egg, while not a traditional ingredient, tenderized our gnocchi further, delivering delicate, pillowlike dumplings. 

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Serves 2 to 3 as a main dish, or 4 to 6 as an appetizer

For the most accurate measurements, weigh the potatoes and flour. After processing, you may have slightly more than the 3 cups (16 ounces) of potatoes recquired for this recipe. Discard any extra or set aside for another use. Besides the browned butter sauce, try our Gorgonzola Cream Sauce, Parmesan Sauce with Pancetta and Walnuts, and Porcini Mushroom Broth (related).

Ingredients

  • Gnocchi
  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus extra for the counter
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
  • Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. 1. FOR THE GNOCCHI: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Poke each potato 8 times with paring knife over entire surface. Microwave potatoes until slightly softened at ends, about 10 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through cooking. Transfer potatoes directly to oven rack and bake until skewer glides easily through flesh and potatoes yield to gentle pressure, 18 to 20 minutes.

    2. Holding each potato with potholder or kitchen towel, peel with paring knife. Process potatoes through ricer or food mill onto rimmed baking sheet. Gently spread potatoes into even layer and let cool for 5 minutes.

    3. Transfer 3 cups (16 ounces) warm potatoes to bowl. Using fork, gently stir in egg until just combined. Sprinkle flour and 1 teaspoon salt over potato mixture. Using fork, gently combine until no pockets of dry flour remain. Press mixture into rough ball, transfer to lightly floured counter, and gently knead until smooth but slightly sticky, about 1 minute, lightly dusting counter with flour as needed to prevent sticking.

    4. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and dust liberally with flour. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Lightly dust counter with flour. Gently roll piece of dough into ½-inch-thick rope, dusting with flour to prevent sticking. Cut rope into ¾-inch lengths. Holding fork with tines facing down in 1 hand, press each dough piece cut side down against tines with thumb of other hand to create indentation. Roll dough down tines to form ridges on sides. If dough sticks, dust thumb or fork with flour. Transfer formed gnocchi to sheets and repeat with remaining dough.

    5. FOR THE SAUCE: Melt butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until butter is browned and releases nutty aroma, about 11/2 minutes. Off heat, add shallot and sage, stirring until shallot is fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice and salt; cover to keep warm.

    6. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot. Add remaining 1 tablespoon salt. Using parchment paper as sling, gently lower gnocchi from 1 sheet into water and cook until firm and just cooked through, about 90 seconds (gnocchi should float to surface after about 1 minute). Using slotted spoon, transfer cooked gnocchi to skillet with sauce. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Gently toss gnocchi with sauce and serve.

Recipe Testing

Keys to Airy, Earthy-Tasting Potato Gnocchi

BAKE, DON’T BOIL Boiled potatoes taste dull. Instead, jumpstart cooking in the microwave and then finish them in the oven.

PEEL ’EM WHILE THEY’RE HOT Peel hot potatoes to release steam. This ensures drier spuds that hold together with less flour. 

SPREAD OUT Press the cooked potatoes through a ricer, then allow more steam to escape by spreading the potatoes on a sheet pan.

BE PRECISE Start with an exact amount of cooked potato and flour so you knead only once.

ADD AN EGG Egg helps dough hold its shape with less flour, for lighter results.

KNEAD BRIEFLY Knead dough until it just holds together to avoid overdeveloping gluten.

Step-by-Step

Make the Right Impression

Ridges and indentations help gnocchi hold on to sauce. To create them, hold fork with tines facing down. Press each dough piece (cut side down) against tines with thumb to make indentation. Roll dumpling down tines to create ridges on sides.

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