Making homemade gnocchi takes a good part of the day, as does its slow simmered sauce. Making Gnocchi and Sugo (sauce) is truly a labor of love. It is especially so for my husband and I. Fred’s late nonna (grandmother), an Italian immigrant and a wonderful cook, taught us how to make gnocchi and sugo. She didn’t teach us both how to make the entire dish but taught a part to each of us.
Fred learned how to make the meaty red sauce, and I learned how to make the gnocchi, or potato dumplings. So we must come together to make this family favorite, and that is what we did this year for Valentine’s Day. We made gnocchi and sugo for dinner.
I’ve never tried to make gnocchi without wheat, so I made half the batch the usual way and half gluten free. The gnocchi begin with cooked potatoes. When they are well drained and have cooled, mix in an egg for every 3 or 4 potatoes and enough flour to form a soft dough.
For the gluten free gnocchi, I added an egg white with the whole egg to add some strength to the dough. For flour, I used a blend of white rice flour, tapioca flour and little xanthan gum. I don’t have exact measurements here (I’ll try to remember to measure next time). The dough should be soft, but firm enough to shape the gnocchi.
Working on a floured surface (I used rice flour for the gluten free batch), take a handful of dough and roll it out into about a one inch thick rope of dough. Cut into about one inch pieces and lightly roll the pieces in the flour on the work surface.
I’m not sure how to explain how to shape the gnocchi. Maybe I’ll remember to take pictures next time. They are shaped, one at a time, by rolling each piece of dough over one’s right index finger while pressing the dough lightly into the palm of the left hand, or against a wooden butter paddle to create a nice ribbed surface. This thins them out a bit so that they cook more evenly. The finished shape is sort of cross between cavatelli and radiatori.
After the finished gnocchi have set out for awhile, an hour or so, cook them in small batches in salted boiling water. When they float, they’re done. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a serving dish and top with sauce. We usually work in layers: a single layer of gnocchi, top with sauce, top with another layer of gnocchi, then a layer of sauce, etc. Serve immediately.
I can’t tell you how to make the sauce, since I never actually learned to make it. I’ve tried a few times, but it never comes out exactly right. It’s sort of an Italian “Sunday Gravy”, containing a lot of meat, some tomatoes, red wine, onions, garlic and seasoning, and simmered all day until it is sort of caramelized. Really delicious.
The gluten free gnocchi were good, but a little softer than the regular version. I think the potatoes had too much water left in them. I might try baking the potatoes next time instead of boiling them.