Gnocchi with Aromatic Herb Pesto
- 1 recipe Aromatic Herb Pesto (recipe follows)
- 4 large unpeeled Idaho potatoes (about 2-1/4 pounds), washed
- 6 quarts salted water
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- Dash freshly ground white pepper
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese
Prepare Aromatic Herb Pesto; set aside. To make gnocchi, place potatoes in Dutch oven with enough cold water to cover by at least 3 fingers. Bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer 40 minutes or until tender. Drain; let potatoes stand until cool enough to handle. The hotter the potatoes are when you peel and rice them, the fluffier the riced potatoes will be.
Peel potatoes and put though ricer. Spread out in thin layer on cool, preferably marble, floured work surface to expose as much of their surface as possible to the air. While potatoes are cooling, bring 6 quarts salted water to boil in 8-quart pot over high heat.
Gather cold riced potatoes into loose mound with well in center. In small bowl, beat eggs, 1 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, and white pepper together until blended. Pour egg mixture into well. With floured hands, work potatoes and eggs together, gradually adding as much flour as necessary to form firm but moist dough. Stop frequently to scrape work surface and reincorporate dough into main mixture. Forming dough should take no longer than 10 minutes. (The longer the dough is worked, the more flour it will require and the heavier the dough-and the finished gnocchi-will be.) As you work, dust dough, hands, and work surface lightly with flour as soon as dough begins to feel sticky.
Out dough into six equal portions. Using outstretched fingers and palms of both hands, roll each piece of dough into rope about 1/2-inch thick. Cut rope crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Sprinkle pieces with flour, then roll each piece between palms into rough ball. Re-flour hands as necessary to prevent sticking. Hold a fork at an angle to your work surface. Dip tip of thumb in flour. With tip of thumb, press a dough ball lightly but firmly against tines of fork while, at the same time, rolling it downward along tines. Dough will wrap around tip of thumb, forming a dumpling with a deep indentation on one side and a ridged surface on the other. Set gnocchi on baking sheet lined with clean, lightly floured kitchen towel. Repeat with remaining 5 pieces of dough.
At this point you can either freeze gnocchi or add it to boiling water. Cook until gnocchi are floating, indicating they are completely cooked. Reserve 1/2 cup of gnocchi cooking water; drain gnocchi.
In 12-inch skillet, bring butter and reserved cooking water to boil over medium heat. Add gnocchi; toss to coat. Remove from heat; add Aromatic Herb Pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently with wooden spoon. Stir in 1/2 cup Grana Padano cheese. Transfer gnocchi to platter; serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Aromatic Herb Pesto:
In mortar, place pinch of coarse sea salt and five basil leaves. Crush with pestle. Add, a few at a time, about 25 fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup parsley, 8 mint and 2 sage leaves, and 2 garlic cloves, crushing after each addition and pounding until mixture becomes a paste. Add 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts; work into paste. Add 2 tablespoons shredded Grana Padano cheese. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Work all into creamy consistency. (If using blender, add salt, basil, parsley, mint, sage, and garlic to blender. Cover; blend to make paste. Add pine nuts. With motor running, slowly pour half the olive oil through opening in lid. Add Grana Padano cheese and remaining olive oil. Cover; blend until mixture becomes creamy paste.) You can also spread pesto on grilled Italian bread or use it as a condiment for beef and chicken.