PARTNER POST: The versatile potato is perfect in a multitude of recipes showcasing flavors from around the globe. Get creative with your spuds.
A favorite winter comfort food, learn how to make perfect potato gnocchi filled with sausage and served with a simple tomato sauce.
By Deborah Mele
One of my favorite events in Italy is Carnivale, the last celebration before Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday. Since Lent has traditionally been a period where Catholics deprive themselves of something they enjoy, Carnivale is a time to party and to indulge in the fried, or rich foods that will be given up for Lent.
To celebrate this year’s Carnivale, I decided to make sausage stuffed potato gnocchi with a luscious, fresh-flavored tomato sauce. The filling is made with sautéed sausage and onions that are lightly bound together with some grated cheese and an egg yolk. Since this gnocchi is so hearty, I topped it with a simple, light flavored sauce to allow the filling to shine. This easy sauce was made famous by the late Marcella Hazan and combines crushed tomatoes, onion, and butter, an example of simple Italian food at its best!
Making memorable potato gnocchi is quite easy if you follow a few simple steps and choose the right ingredients. Since the two primary ingredients include basic all-purpose flour and potatoes, choosing the right potato is possibly the most important task when making this type of gnocchi. You need a good starchy potato for gnocchi, and Russet potatoes (also known as baking or Idaho potatoes) are ideal. These potatoes have a floury, dry texture; that fluff nicely when baked, and along with making great gnocchi, they also are perfect for frying, baking or mashing. Yukon Gold potatoes considered a medium starch potato, are also good gnocchi potatoes, but I prefer the Russet variety.
When buying starchy potatoes such as the Russet variety, choose ones without blemishes, wrinkles, or cracks. Although potatoes are often sold in bags, I prefer to choose my potatoes by hand, so I can pick ones that are firm and dry. If you do buy your potatoes in a bag, pick ones sold in perforated bags so that air can circulate. Potatoes will keep well for up to two weeks in a cool, well-ventilated place, preferably between 45 to 50 degrees F. Avoid storing your potatoes in areas that reach high temperatures, such as beneath the sink or next to the dishwasher, or in areas that receive too much sunlight.
It may surprise many people who think of potatoes as simply a filler or side dish that this popular vegetable is packed with nutritional value. Potatoes are high in potassium, and in fact, contain more than bananas! One medium potato also contains 3 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, vitamin C, and an assortment of antioxidant phytochemicals. Potatoes are also a good source of vitamin B6 as well as iron. No wonder potatoes are the number one vegetable crop grown in the world!
Now that you have chosen the best potato for your gnocchi, all you need is all-purpose flour, a little salt, and a couple of egg yolks. (we’ll discuss the filling later) You can find many recipes that will call for tipo “oo” flour (also called pizza flour) or a combination of all-purpose and tipo “oo” but after a lot of testing, I find all-purpose flour works just fine. There are also many folks that prefer to make eggless gnocchi because they feel the eggs bind the gnocchi and can make it too dense in texture, but my gnocchi has always been very light, and I always use egg yolks. To enhance the dry, fluffy texture of the Russet potatoes, I always bake, not boil my potatoes when using them for gnocchi. To keep the potatoes as light and fluffy as possible after baking, a potato ricer, not a potato masher is the tool of choice. The ratio of flour to potatoes may vary, but is approximately three-quarter to one cup of flour to every pound of riced, baked potatoes.
For another hearty international recipe, try these Bombay Spiced Potatoes:Print
Deborah Mele is a self-taught cook whose passion for Italian cuisine began after living in Milan, Italy for 8 years. Although not Italian by birth, she became a true Italian by heart and palate. Deborah created her Italian recipe blog ItalianFoodForever.com 12 years ago to share her passion for Italian food. During her various travels throughout Italy, Deborah fell in love with the central Italian region of Umbria so when they retired, Deborah and her husband bought two farmhouses there where they now reside for six months a year and run a farmhouse rental for guests and give cooking classes.