This is the very first dish I learned to make while "staging" at Quince Restaurant in 2004 with owner and Chef Michael Tusk. I nearly screwed it up the first time. The look on his face was priceless and I thought I'd never be invited back. Fortunately that was not the case!
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
-3 large Russet potatoes
-thyme butter (melt 3 tablespoons of butter with 2 tablespoons of thyme leaves)
-2 to 3 cups of all purpose unbleached flour
-1/2 tablespoon of unsalted butter, plus more for sauce
-6-10 whole sage leaves
-2 cups heavy cream
Place the potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Lower to a gentle simmer and allow to cook until easily pierced with a knife but not completely falling apart, approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Allow to cool. Remove the skins. Cut in half and put through a ricer into a large bowl.
Add the thyme butter and whisked eggs to the riced potatoes. Salt aggressively and gently mix everything together with a wooden spoon. Pour everything onto a marble or clean cutting board. Pour the flour around the potato mixture. Using a pastry scraper add about a cup of the surrounding flour onto the top of the potato mixture and chop the flour in with the scraper. Once the flour is well incorporated begin to fold the dough using the side of the scraper. Work the dough over for about 2-3 minutes, adding more flour if still too wet. Gently knead the dough with your hands for 1-2 minutes until cohesive.
Set the dough aside as one cohesive mass and cover with a damp paper towel to keep from drying out. Slice off a small piece of dough and begin to roll it out using your fingers. Roll over the top very gently (do not press down on the dough). Once you have made a long and fairly thin roll (about 1/2 inch thick) cut into pieces 1.5 inch pieces using the pasta scraper. I like to use the scraper in a downward motion and then flick to the right to cut the pieces. As you work move the cut pieces onto a platter lined with parchment paper dusted with flour.
When your gnocchi are on the platter, proceed to “fork” each piece. Dust a fork with some flour and take each piece of gnocchi and gently roll it off the fork so that you can see fork indentations but the gnocchi are still open (they look like half shells). This will allow the sauce to adhere to them.
Bring 1 stick of butter to a simmer with 10-15 sage leaves. Once melted and the sage is gently fried add the heavy cream. Add salt and an aggressive amount of coarsely ground black pepper. Reduce 3-4 minutes over medium heat. Meanwhile add the gnocchi carefully into the water (it's okay if some flour goes in with it). After the gnocchi have returned to the boil cook for 3-44 minutes or until the gnocchi are nearly cooked through.
Using a slotted skimmer or webbed strainer quickly transfer gnocchi to the saute pan and gently toss with the butter cream sauce for 1-2 minutes over medium-high heat. If the sauce is a little dry add a bit of the pasta cooking water to help bind the sauce. Serve on warmed plates and grate with Parmigiano Reggiano.
James is a food writer and Bay Area chef who owns and runs a private dinner party and cooking class business specializing in regional Italian and Spanish cuisine. See CookWithJames.com