The airy flesh of the ubiquitous russet potato makes it the perfect choice for gnocchi. To create light, pillowy gnocchi, make sure that your dough is neither too wet nor overworked. Armida uses the fine markings of the back of her cheese grater to mark the gnocchi; I recommend using the fine side of a box grater to do this, or forming the gnocchi and running them along a wire whisk to mark them. The gnocchi are wonderful with Armida’s easy, rich ragu. They are also delicious with a simpler dressing of melted butter and grated cheese.
For the sauce
For the gnocchi
To serve
  1. Begin by making the ragu. Warm the oil until shimmering in a heavy-bottomed pot set over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, parsley, and bay leaf and cook until softened, 5 to 10 minutes. Turn the heat up to medium and add the beef, stirring until it is evenly browned, 5 to 10 minutes more. Add the remaining ragu ingredients, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce has a medium-thick consistency, about 1 1/2 hours.
  2. While the ragu is cooking, prepare the gnocchi. Wash the potatoes and place them in a large pot covered by cold water. Add a generous pinch of salt and bring the potatoes to a boil. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain the cooked potatoes in a colander and let them cool enough in order to remove their skins. Peel the potatoes and then let them cool for at least 15 minutes more so that their remaining moisture evaporates in steam; this is important, as drier potatoes make for lighter gnocchi.