For the gnocchi: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with rock salt.
Place the russet potatoes on the rock salt-lined baking sheet. Bake until the potatoes are easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and halve lengthwise.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (I like to use an 8-quart pot and fill it most of the way with water.) Add a bit of salt to the water.
Once the potatoes are cool enough to touch--don't let them cool completely, you want them to be as warm as possible but still be able to handle them--peel the skins and place the insides in a large bowl. Mash the potatoes until pretty smooth--it is best to run the potatoes through a ricer, but you can even puree them in a food processor.
Add the olive oil, if using, and salt and pepper to taste.
Add the flour to the mashed potatoes in 1/4 cup intervals, using your hands to work the flour in with each addition. You want to use as little flour as possible to achieve a perfect ball of dough. Once you think you have the right consistency, tear off a tiny piece, roll it into a ball and drop it into the boiling water. If it rises to the top without falling apart, that's good, but you still want to taste it. If it tastes gummy, add flour to the dough by the tablespoon until you get a firmer dough.
You can turn the boiling water down to low while you form the gnocchi because this will take a little while.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Tear a piece off and roll into a long rope about 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut the rope in half, then with the two ropes next to each other, slice them into 1/2-inch "pillows." At Calafia, we do not pass the gnocchi on a gnocchi board or a fork. After they're cut, we freeze them in an airtight container.
Turn the water back up to a boil. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In batches, drop the gnocchi into the boiling water. They will dance around for a while but once they rise to the top and stay there for a couple of seconds, they are done. Use a slotted spoon to remove (don't let them hang at the top of the water for more than a few seconds). Place the gnocchi on the lined baking sheets, making sure that none are touching. Reserve some of the cooking water.
You can now serve them in whatever gnocchi recipe you desire, or you can store them for later (see Cook's Note). Enjoy!
For the vegan gnocchi with kale: Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat and add the olive oil. Just before the oil starts to smoke, add one serving of the gnocchi cook until the gnocchi begins to turn brown. At this point, add in the shredded Brussels sprouts and cook until they begin to sweat. Then, add the minced garlic and red chile flakes and, once the garlic has become fragrant, add in a small amount of the cooking water you used to boil the gnocchi, just a couple of tablespoons. Add the kale, turn down the heat and allow the kale to cook down. The last ingredient is the toasted California walnuts. You can crush them into the pan as you toss them in so as to have walnuts in every bite. Season with salt and pepper.
To store the gnocchi: Freeze cooled gnocchi on baking sheets. When frozen, transfer the gnocchi to an airtight container and freeze until ready to use. Gnocchi can be frozen for 1 to 2 months. This makes A LOT of gnocchi. You can easily cut this recipe in half if needed. I like to make a lot so I can make 2 to 3 meals with them. This dish is intended to be eaten as a vegan dish, but you most certainly can add Parmesan cheese to it.
This recipe was provided by a chef, restaurant or culinary professional. It has not been tested for home use.
Recipe courtesy of Calafia Cafe and Market, Palo Alto, CA