Although this recipe includes a pesto sauce, you can also serve the gnocchi with butter and cheese, pomodoro sauce, or ragu.From the book "Lucinda's Rustic Italian Kitchen," by Lucinda Scala Quinn (Wiley).To prepare this as seen on Mad Hungry TV, switch out the pesto for the sauce from the Beef Braciola.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Spear the potatoes lightly with a fork in a few places. Place directly on the oven rack and cook until completely tender, about 1 hour. When cool enough to handle, cut the potatoes open, scoop out the flesh, and pass it through a potato ricer to achieve a very fine and light texture. Spread out on a rimmed baking sheet and allow to cool completely (very important).
In a mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups of the flour and the salt. Slowly blend the flour mixture into the potatoes, using your hands to combine completely, until the dough pulls away from your hands and feel likes pizza dough. Add flour if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
Sprinkle some flour on a clean work surface. Separate the dough into several pieces and roll out each into the size of a cigar. Cut each "cigar" into 1-inch pieces. To form the gnocchi, dip a fork in flour, then place the tines on top of a piece of dough. Applying medium pressure, gently roll the gnocchi toward you with the fork, releasing pressure gradually as you roll, until it is completely rolled off the tines. Repeat with each piece of dough, placing the gnocchi on a floured baking sheet as completed. The pieces should resemble tiny footballs with a cup in the center.
Place a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When boiling, add a generous amount of salt. Drop about 8 gnocchi into the water at a time and cook until they return to float on the surface of the boiling water, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and toss immediately with the pesto.
To make the Pesto: Place the basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor. Blend for 10 seconds. With the machine running, gradually pour in the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Store in a jar in the refrigerator for a couple of days with oil poured on top to prevent darkening, or freeze. Makes 2/3 cup.