Baked Gnocchi with Cream and Fontina
Gnocchi are soft, puffy Italian dumplings, which I like to call "little labors of love," since they can be a bit of work to prepare. For most home cooks, making gnocchi seems an arduous task, but with a little practice you can become an expert gnocchi maker.
After a dozen or so gnocchi-making sessions, I came up with a few tricks that might shock an Italian grandmother, but help fool-proof gnocchi preparation. First, gnocchi is lighter if you slice open your potatoes immediately after cooking to release the steam. Second, keep your work surface well floured when rolling out your gnocchi. Last, the step of rolling out the gnocchi can be eliminated completely if you have a very small cookie scoop. Scoop up a bit of the dough, plop it out onto a floured baking sheet and continue until all the dough is made into balls. Roll each ball in flour, and then roll it down the tines of a fork and onto another floured baking sheet.
Remember, gnocchi do not have to be perfectly formed, and by the time you’ve finished your first batch you’ll practically be a gnocchi-making expert! This recipe is also great for entertaining since it can be made ahead.
Bring a large pot of water and the remaining 1 tablespoon of sea salt to a boil. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut dough into 4 pieces. Roll one piece into a log about 1-inch thick, adding more flour to the work surface if the dough is sticking. Cut log into 1-inch pieces. (Alternately, the dough may be scooped into small rounds using a small cookie scoop.) Roll each piece of dough down the tines of a fork onto a floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough until all dough is used.
Drop 1/4 of the gnocchi into boiling water and cook until gnocchi rise to the surface, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander set over a plate to drain. Continue until all gnocchi are cooked.
While you cook the gnocchi, pour the whipping cream into a small saucepan and boil until reduced by 1/4, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Butter a large baking dish and add the cooked gnocchi. Pour the sauce over the top, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with cheese. Bake until cheese is melted and the gnocchi hot throughout, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
*While a potato press, potato ricer or food mill are traditionally used, the potatoes also can be grated finely before proceeding with the recipe.