Fratelli Perata Winery
Gnocchi at Fratelli Perata

It is quite amazing how exceptional home-made foods can be. Ravioli and Gnocchi fall into the “Wow” category when loving hands do the work. Oh, yeah, actually hands that have a feel for what they are doing. Lefse and tortillas are also most excellent made at home. All have a common bond: flour and moisture. With practice, it can be done. And since the ingredients are inexpensive, failures have a small price. After all, you can't play video games all afternoon. C'mon kids, get your hands in it.

Mama made her gnocchi without really thinking about them. She'd be chattering away about her sister and her kids, how the garden was growing, how her mother was shocked there was kissing on the movie screen (1930's), how they brought the laundry down the streets to the communal laundry in Bel Monte and all the women gossiped about how strong their husbands were. You know:  life in general. While this was all going on, the gnocchi came together. Now that she's gone, we have a community effort to make gnocchi. This recipe is a compilation of Mama, Brad the Webmaster, and Mario Batali. What we can't remember from Mama, or maybe what we just can't elucidate, Brad has kindly put together in a workable recipe. The key is lightness or they turn into bombs in your stomach. The way to keep them light is not much moisture, so then you don't need much flour. Mama knew that, she thought everyone knew it. Here it is spelled out.

3 lbs. potatoes, boiling and old ones. Mama used White Rose, but you just can't find them anymore. Idaho ok if you must.
2 cups flour, max, start with 1 1/2 cup as you're working with the potatoes
1 egg, extra large
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup canola oil, of course, Mama used olive oil, but a bland one not a gourmet oil
Special Equipment: Ricer, no not the cooker, the metal wheely thing, a food mill

BAKE the potatoes after cleaning any soil and the little eyes about 1 hour at 350 degrees, until they “give” when squeezed. Remove skins, rice while still hot in a thin layer over a sheet pan. Let cool. Note from Batali: if you mash instead of rice, you are compacting the starch, making it heavy. If you do a thin layer, the steam can escape, so less moisture. If they are cool, they absorb less flour.

Make a well (have you pasta makers heard this before?) in the middle of the potatoes, sprinkle with 1 1/2 c flour. Crack egg into well, add salt. Using a fork begin stirring the flour and potatoes into the egg. When all mixed, form into a ball, knead gently about 4 minutes, or until dry to the touch.

On a lightly floured board, take about 1/4 of the ball, roll into a log about an inch diameter, then cut pieces about 3/4 inch along the log. Using a fork, place a piece on the concave side, push your finger against the dough to make a slight depression, flick it down onto the board. Now you have the traditional shape that holds onto your favorite sauce. Repeat process to use all dough.

Cook immediately, Boil salted water in large, wide pan.  Add a couple test gnocchi: boil until they float to the surface, about 1 minute, count to ten, remove with a slotted spoon and taste. If they've dissolved before you caught them, take them out of the water either as soon as they float or quickly after. Either way, try a new test gnocchi until it times between floating and 10 seconds, without being dissolved or tasting floury (uncooked). Really not hard, you just have to be there.

Batali says to boil them as you form them, to drop straight into the boiling water, removing them as soon as they float, putting them in an ice bath. When all have been cooled, drain. Toss with the canola oil and can store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours. I guess that works if you're exhausted or are entertaining later.

Mama would have ready a serving bowl filled with a little of the sauce to be used with the gnocchi. She would move the cooked gnocchi to the bowl as they were done boiling. Then add the rest of the sauce and toss lightly. Since everyone was eagerly anticipating the meal, there wasn't any storing procedure necessary. So pick your favorite sauce, some Tre Sorelle, and enjoy.