@ Teamfat: Well Done ! You managed to make some great looking pasta . Tell us, how did it taste ? Did you serve it buttered or seasoned with a sauce ? Is it something you would make again ?
@ Jake: You have furnished us with a summertime looking lasagna with all the flavors that encompass it. Thank you for the pictorial , we can see that your pasta skills are honed. And may I say that your lasagna is the first lasagna entry in the pasta challenge and we thank you for that, just lovely. Overall ?
@ Siduri: I must say that I enjoy both from time to time. When I read that it is called a 'spaetzle plane', I realized what you were talking about in the previous post. I own the second one (same idea of a grater ). The pic you posted of the gnocchi/galuska looks very rustic and that's a good thing. The point about it holding the sauce is important as traditional gnocchi doesn't really do that unless like you said, the ridges are marked/indented. While I can easily make the rustic style at home, I could not do it at work as they do enjoy presentation.
Your post has been quite informative. Thank you for including equipment in your discussion and also the technique that goes into making both types of gnocchi. It's important for anyone who falls upon this thread and is keen in making them, all the tips count (including the tines)
There is an interesting story I thought I would share from the local newspaper, The Gazette: A restaurant I frequent .
Come evening, Montreal’s Buonanotte restaurant will be buzzing with beautiful people dining on duck breast tagliata with foie gras sauce or black cod sous-vide. By 10 p.m., the best-known supper club on the Main will be throbbing with glamour and bass-heavy dance music.
But at lunchtime, Luciano’s old-fashioned gnocchi steal the show.
Luciano Lecas’s potato gnocchi are light and airy, little pillows of delicate dough boiled just until tender and then coated in a silky Bolognese sauce. It is no wonder they are one of the most popular pasta dishes on the menu. Ever since the restaurant opened more than two decades ago, Lecas has been in charge of the lunchtime gnocchi at Buonanotte, which so happens to be owned by his son Massimo.
"Before we opened, he came to help us paint the bathrooms. And then he never left," jokes his son. "We change a lot of things on the menu. But never my Dad’s gnocchi."
At 82, Lecas claims to be slowing down. But there’s little evidence of that. He still comes in six mornings a week to get his gnocchi ready (and to make the barley soup that’s another lunchtime staple at the restaurant).
He will have boiled and mashed the potatoes the day before to leave ample time for them to dry. (It’s the secret, he says, to light and fluffy gnocchi.) By 10:30, he’s at his post at the stainless steel counter, sprinkling flour onto the mound of potatoes, breaking an egg into the centre, adding the ingredients without measuring and then gently kneading the dough into a smooth two-foot-long log that he cuts into long ropes and divides into gnocchi.
By the time he heads home three or so hours later, he will have rolled and cut close to a thousand gnocchi.
Lecas isn’t a trained chef, but he has been perfecting his gnocchi for more than 50 years. He watched his mother and grandmother make them for the family every Sunday back in his native Trieste, in northern Italy, near the border with Slovenia.
"When I was a boy, sometimes my parents and I would go to the local trattoria, where there would be much singing and drinking. At around 11 p.m., someone would say they had a craving for gnocchi," Lecas recalled. "My mother would go home and after a half-hour or so she would return with a platter of gnocchi for everyone."
When he was 16 years old, his mother died and Lecas and his father had to learn to make gnocchi for themselves. As a young man just immigrated to Montreal, he happened upon a restaurant run by a paesano from Trieste who had introduced gnocchi to Montreal. They assuaged his homesickness. Soon, he was making them himself and inviting friends for dinner to share them.
All these years later, gnocchi are his specialty. To stand by Lecas’ side in a corner of the busy Buonanotte kitchen amid the clatter of pots and pans is to behold an old pro at work. The cuffs of his crisply pressed blue-and-white shirt rolled up, Lecas kneads and rolls, all the while recounting the history of an all-Italian classic.
While gnocchi have been eaten in one form or another in Italy since the 1300s, potato gnocchi made their debut in the 1600s after Christopher Columbus introduced the potato to Europe, Lecas explains. Exotic and new, they were an aristocratic delicacy.
In Venice, the doges would sprinkle them with equally exotic cinnamon and sugar and eat them for dessert. Before long potato gnocchi were a favourite all over Italy. But their popularity comes at a price, Lecas laments. Frozen and vacuum-packed, the machine-made facsimiles are often a gummy, leaden disappointment.
The only way to really appreciate potato gnocchi in Montreal, he says, is — not surprisingly — to come in for lunch at Buonanotte. Or make them yourself and eat them straightaway, with a simple tomato sauce, or a Bolognese meat ragu, or perhaps with pesto or the pan juices from a veal roast. In summer, he suggests dressing potato gnocchi with melted butter simmered briefly with a little fresh sage.
Lecas is lingering a little at the front of the restaurant after his gnocchi shift is up. He says he has no imminent plans to retire from gnocchi production. He loves the bustle of a restaurant kitchen, and besides "if I stay at home, what am I going to do?"
The only downside, he allows, is that sometimes he finds himself up in the middle of the night "counting gnocchi instead of sheep."
Luciano's potato gnocchi
Here are Buonanotte’s famous potato gnocchi. Luciano Lecas likes to serve them with a slow-cooked Bolognese sauce, a simple tomato sauce, or a simple melted butter and sage dressing.
Sometimes he serves them for dessert, with a little melted butter and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.
2 pounds (1 kilogram) unpeeled boiling potatoes (like russet or Idaho)
1 1/2 cups (375 mL) all purpose flour, plus extra for flouring the board and dusting the finished gnocchi
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Boil the potatoes in salted water. When thoroughly cooked, drain and transfer to a colander.
When cool enough to handle, peel potatoes and puree them through a potato ricer or a food mill while still warm.
Spread the mashed potatoes out on an ungreased baking sheet, cover with a clean, dry dish cloth and let stand several hours or overnight.
On a well-floured work surface, spread out mashed potatoes and add flour and egg. With well-floured hands, knead gently into a smooth dough, being careful not to overwork.
The mixture should be soft, smooth and slightly sticky. (If the dough is a little too tacky, simply add a tablespoon or so extra flour.)
Shape the dough into a large foot-long log and then cut lengthwise into four or five ropes of about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter.
Using the palms of your well-floured hands, gently roll each of the ropes into longer, thinner lengths (of an inch in diameter), moving your hands out from the middle toward the ends.
With a sharp knife, slicing on the diagonal, cut the ropes crosswise into individual gnocchi. Dust lightly with flour and set aside.
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a rolling boil. Add gnocchi, no more than two dozen at a time, being careful not to crowd the pot. Cook for two or three minutes, until gnocchi float to the top. Wait eight to 10 seconds (but no longer) then lift them out of the boiling water using a slotted spoon. Drain and transfer to a large serving bowl, tossing with a little sauce to keep them from sticking while you cook the rest. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Serve immediately with meat sauce or sage butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
The gnocchi maestro shares his secrets
Luciano Lecas says his gnocchi-making talents come naturally, and from years of practice. The gnocchi maestro at Buonanotte restaurant shares his secrets:
- Use starchy, floury potatoes with low moisture and high starch content, like Idahos or russets. They retain less water during cooking.
- Boil the potatoes until thoroughly tender. Some cooks boil the potatoes unpeeled to reduce water absorption and then peel them after cooking.
- For silky, lump-free texture, puree the potatoes using a food mill or a potato ricer the day before making the gnocchi. Spread them out on a baking sheet, covered with a clean dishcloth, and leave to dry overnight.
- To avoid gumminess, don’t use too much flour.
- Keep work surface and hands well floured.
- Knead dough gently. Don’t overwork the dough.
- Cook the gnocchi in a generous amount of salted water that has reached a rolling boil. Don’t overcrowd the pot.
- Scoop them out with a slotted spoon eight to 10 seconds after they float to the top to prevent them from overcooking. Don’t leave them in any longer or they will disintegrate.