After trying many versions over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s impossible to write (or follow) a foolproof recipe for fresh gnocchi.
The right ration of flour to liquid depends on subtleties like humidity, the size of the eggs (if you’re using them), and the size of and amount of moisture in the potatoes (or sweet potatoes, in this case). I’ve followed recipes too closely in the past and have had the gnocchi disintegrate in the pot. A recipe can get you close, but you have to rely on feel too.
Last night I had some sweet potatoes from Joseph Fields Farm and some good gorgonzola from Goat Sheep Cow on hand. I decided I’d make gnocchi, but instead of relying on a recipe, I just decided to go with my gut.
First, I peeled the sweet potatoes, cut them into cubes to make them cook faster, and put them on a steaming rack in a large pot.
When I could easily pierce the chunks of sweet potato with a knife, I took them off the heat. I fed the pieces into a potato ricer.
I fitted my mixer with the flat beater at first, just to combine the ingredients. I added the flour (less than I thought I needed), an egg, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and a healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg.
Once the ingredients were combined, I switched the flat beater out for the dough hook. I added more flour as I mixed, stopping occasionally to stir the mixture with a spatula to keep it off the bottom of the bowl.
I kept adding flour until the dough pulled away from the sides of the bowl and turned into a ball. Then I revved up the mixer and let the hook knock the dough around for about 20 seconds to develop the gluten in the sweet potatoes, which helps the gnocchi hold together.
I tossed some flour onto the cutting board, then rolled the kneaded dough out onto the board.
I sprinkled it with more bench flour, then cut the dough into thirds.
I rolled and pulled one of the thirds into a long dowel.
I used a pastry cutter to cut the dowel into pieces.
I sprinkled the forming gnocchi generously with more flour to keep them from sticking together, and tossed them around in the flour for insurance.
Then, using my thumb and forefinger, I rolled the gnocchi along the back of a fork. The ridges give them texture and help them hold the sauce.
I put together a quick, simple sauce. I added a splash of whole milk to a small nonstick skillet and warmed it over medium heat. I crumbled in a chunk of gorgonzola, and swirled the pan around to help it melt. Then I just simmered the sauce until it was thick and looked like it would coat the gnocchi.
I simmered the gnocchi gently in boiling salted water until they expanded, floated and were hot in the center, about 5 minutes. I lifted them out of the water with a slotted spoon and added them straight into the sauce. I added lots of fresh ground black pepper and simmered them until they were coated.
Making fresh pasta always seems a like a big commitment, but it usually ends up being easier — and tastier — than I expect.