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potato.JPGYesterday, we dug and ate our first home-grown potatoes of the year (pictured). Last night, I taught a cooking class on how to make potato gnocchi.

Several students took the class because of their previous gnocchi-making failures. We discussed how much flour to add to the potato and how to knead the dough. Then Heidi asked, “What about microwaving the potatoes?”

Microwave? Oh, no! A microwaved potato has a completely different texture and taste from a baked or boiled potato.

Mike (who was trying to recreate his grandmother’s specialty) said, “Baking takes so long; we wanted to speed up the process.”

“Did your nonna ever microwave her potatoes for her gnocchi?” I asked.

“No, of course not.”

“Well, that’s why your gnocchi didn’t taste like her gnocchi,” I answered. It had never occurred to me to write at the top of the gnocchi recipe: Do Not Microwave the Potatoes!

My family is renowned for our slow-baked potatoes (3 hours at 350 degrees for a creamy interior and a crispy skin). Would the microwave speed up this process? We did the experiment of microwaving potatoes and ended up with gummy texture and flaccid skin and a off-putting aroma. No, the disappointing taste is not worth the savings in time.

Potatoes are a delicate vegetable with a creamy pulp. If electricity (mixer or food processor) touches potatoes, the pulp turns into glue. Potatoes are delicious when creamed with a ricer (which looks like a giant garlic press) or a food mill, but taste terrible when mashed with any electric machine. The disappointing taste is not worth the savings in time! 

Gnocchi are traditionally scored on a ridged gnocchi board so that the indentations will catch and hold the delicious sauce.

Potato Gnocchi with Sage Butter

  • 3 large russet potatoes
  • 1/2 to 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup julienned fresh sage leaves
  • grated parmesan cheese to taste

Bake the potatoes in a 400° oven for an hour. When cool enough to handle, but still warm, peel the potatoes and pass through a potato ricer. Place a mound of 1/2 cup of flour with the salt on a pastry rollmat and put the riced potatoes on top. Knead the mixture until smooth, adding more flour as necessary to prevent sticking, but don’t add too much more flour. Cut the dough into smaller balls and roll out into a long rope. Using a bench knife, cut into small squares and roll each “pillow” over a gnocchi board to indent it. Lay the gnocchi on a tray sprinkled with cornmeal so that they will not stick to each other.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water, add the gnocchi one-by-one (so that they do not stick to each other) and cook the gnocchi until they float, usually a minute. Use a skimmer to skim off the gnocchi as they float. Do not overcook. In a separate pan, melt the butter and cook until light browned. Add the sage, gnocchi, and parmesan cheese to taste.