Gnocchi are as easy to make as homemade pasta noodles but faster, because they’re ready with no waiting. Classically, they’re tossed in simple browned butter infused with sage leaves, then hit with a squeeze of bright lemon juice to cut their richness. If you like, serve the gnocchi with homemade marinara or pesto sauce. If you don’t have sage leaves, you can use fresh rosemary or thyme, or better yet, tear up the reserved skins from your potato and fry them in the butter until crisp to serve over the soft potato dumplings.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the potato directly on the rack and bake until a paring knife can be easily inserted into and removed from the potato with no resistance, 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Remove the potato from the oven with an oven mitt or folded kitchen towel and immediately cut in half lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop out the potato flesh, scraping every last bit of it from the skins; discard the skins or save for another use (see note above). Place the potato flesh in a food mill or potato ricer fitted with the plate with the smallest holes (you can also use the small holes of a box grater). Process through the mill, letting the potato fall onto your clean work surface.
Use a knife or bench scraper to gently space out the potatoes so they lay in a ½-inch-thick sheet across the surface. Sprinkle the flour evenly over the sheet, then use a fork to gently move the potatoes and flour around as if you’re raking a Japanese rock garden, lightly dragging the tines of the fork along your work surface. Next, gently press the sides of the dough mass together, compressing it as gently as you can, then start lifting segments and folding them over onto themselves, lightly and quickly pressing straight down. Continue in this way until virtually all the loose flour is absorbed and the dough forms a smooth mass. Move the dough to the side and clean any dried-on dough bits and flour off your work surface. Cut the dough into four pieces.
Working with one piece at a time, gently roll it back and forth under your outstretched fingers and form it into a thick rope, about 12 inches long and ¾ inch in diameter. Roll the rope to the top of your work surface, lightly sprinkle with flour to coat and repeat with the remaining dough pieces. Once all the ropes are shaped and floured, use a knife to cut each rope every 1/2 to 3/8 inch to make small pillows.
Next, position a fork in your nondominant hand so the fork’s tines face down. Pick up a dough pillow with your other hand and position it crosswise across the curve of the fork where the tines meet the solid metal. Using your thumb, gently press the pillow as if you wanted to rub it both along the length of the tines and into them at the same time. The pillow will actually flatten somewhat, then curl back in on itself to create the classic ridged tubular shape. Your first couple of gnocchi will not look great and that’s OK. Keep going and by the time you’ve gotten through the first dough rope’s worth of pillows, you’ll have it down. Use a flat metal spatula or bench scraper to transfer all the formed gnocchi to a sheet of parchment paper.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. While waiting for the water to boil, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Once it starts foaming, continue cooking the butter, stirring the bottom occasionally, until the solids turn brown and smell nutty, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat.
Using the parchment paper like a sling, slide all your gnocchi into the boiling water and gently stir to make sure they don’t stick together. Cook the gnocchi until they all float to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Return the skillet with the browned butter to medium-high heat and add the sage leaves all at once. Using a spider or slotted spoon, lift the gnocchi from the water, let them drain for a few seconds, then transfer them to the butter. Toss quickly to coat, then remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
Divide the gnocchi, fried sage leaves and butter between two serving plates and immediately use a Microplane grater to finely grate over some Parmesan. Serve the gnocchi while hot with a lemon wedge to squeeze over just before eating.
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