Authentic-tasting gnocchi are a tall order, but inspired by the charm and panache of the Franks (Falcinelli and Castronovo) of Frankie’s Sputino in Brooklyn, everyone is an expert Italian chef. Although this recipe was a part of my goal to make four gnocchi dishes for The Daring Kitchen, the preparation of the dish proved hardly a challenge. And not because the fickle gnocchi gods* were smiling at me that day, but rather that this recipe must be the master recipe for the most perfect gnocchi. In the amount of time that it took me to boil a pot of water and futz around with a marinara sauce, I had a dough that was pliant, smooth and gorgeous. A little effortless rolling and cutting resulted in photo-ready dumplings. And a quick trip into a jacuzzi of water yielded gnocchi that tasted of heaven. Where were the Franks grandmas so that I could kiss them on both cheeks and throw my hands up in the air?
I most enjoyed the social aspect of this recipe – once the dough emerged from the KitchenAid, I portioned off a few pieces and passed them to my awaiting friends to cut and roll. Despite their varying techniques (I’m talking to you, Kali, and your crosshatch technique on the gnocchi board!), the gnocchi all emerged equally lovely and perfectly tender. We baked the cooked gnocchi with a garlicky basil marinara and topped them with whole milk mozzarella for the most perfect Gnocchi alla Sorrentina I’ve ever tasted. So tell me again why I haven’t been chowing down on these bad boys my whole life? I feel cheated.
*Apparently, the gnocchi gods can crack open the heavens and spew torrents of fire at will. For a good time, read my buddy Tara’s dance with gnocchi danger. I only wish she’d had the Franks charming the pants off of her like I had at my gnocchi feast. And a potato ricer, which makes the dough airy and light, thereby resulting in perfect gnocchi. I got mine at IKEA for about $5.
Potato Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cl. of garlic
1-28 oz. can of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
2 sprigs of basil, leaves removed and stems discarded
10 slices of whole milk mozzarella
1½ lbs. of russet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup grated locatelli
1½ c. of flour, plus extra for dusting
Slice the four cloves of garlic lengthwise into thin slivers. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat and then add the garlic. Cook until golden and fragrant, but not burned. Add the tomatoes, kosher salt and half of the basil and turn heat to low. Simmer for a half an hour and then turn off heat. Set aside.
Peel and quarter potatoes and chuck them into a large pot. Fill with water and boil, checking the potatoes once in a while for doneness. They are ready when you can insert a butter knife into them easily. Drain potatoes and immediately put them back in the hot pot to allow them to dry out a bit (moisture is the enemy of gnocchi). While still warm, push the gnocchi through a potato ricer into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the egg, locatelli, flour and salt and allow to spin away with the dough hook for about 4-5 minutes, or until a smooth dough is formed. Roll out onto a floured board and knead until no longer tacky and super soft. Split the dough into four pieces and roll each into a fat cigar shape and then into a long snake about as thick as your thumb. Use a butter knife to cut the dough into 1 inch pieces. Roll each piece over a gnocchi board or create ridges using the tong of a fork. Set each piece on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and flour.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface of the water, about 4-5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, immediately add gnocchi to the sauce. Pour the gnocchi and sauce into a buttered casserole dish and top with remaining basil leaves. Top with mozzarella and broil until cheese is golden and melted. Serve.