Lazily wandering through our local grocer yesterday, the boy asked me if I could make gnocchi for dinner – considering he bought me a potato ricer months ago and I haven’t used it yet, I figured it was a decent request. Two potatoes, a small block of pancetta and a handful of basil later we were pretty much set for dinner.
Gnocchi is deceptively easy to make and requires few ingredients – perfect. I think the key to a good gnocchi is not to overwork the dough – you need to treat it gently and with respect. The reward of perfectly plump, soft and velvety dumplings is well worth the effort, trust me. Also, go for a simple sauce and let the gnocchi be the star of the dish rather than the support act.
There are so many different ways to do gnocchi, they are such versatile little dumplings and I adore that about them. I always use Antonio Carluccio’s basic recipe for gnocchi and it turns out perfect every time. It also makes a lot more than you would expect it to – so don’t be tempted to double the amounts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you have enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
Also, I love plain potato gnocchi and I suggest that this is the best way to pop your gnocchi cherry if you’ve never made it before. Once you’ve perfected the dough and understand the desirable consistency, you can always move onto making gnocchi with pumpkin, semolina, nettle etc – the options are almost endless and I doubt you will struggle to find willing taste testers.
Also, making gnocchi just makes me feel good. It’s satisfying to make, almost soothing. As I gently knead the dough, cut the gnocchi into perfect cloud-like squares, cook them and serve them up with a good helping of sauce – I feel as though I have achieved something a little bit wonderful, but the very best part for me is sharing it with my most loved person.
Serves 4 – 6
500g floury potatoes, peeled and cooked in salted boiling water until soft
200g plain flour, plus a little extra to dust
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
1 onion, finely diced
1 small block of pancetta roughly diced, 150gm worth
splash white wine
1 can chopped tomatoes
small handful of basil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese, to serve
- In a medium sized pot, pour in a little olive oil and then gently fry onions and pancetta until the onion is translucent, de-glaze pot with a little bit of wine, then pour in tomatoes and cook gently for 10 minutes. Turn off heat, stir through basil, season and then place lid on the sauce and allow to sit until gnocchi is ready.
- Bring a large pot of slightly salted water to the boil.
- Using a potato ricer, squeeze your potatoes into a large bowl and season with a pinch of salt. Pour over flour and gently combine.
- Pour potato mixture out onto a clean, dry bench that has been lightly floured. Gently start to knead the dough, then pour over the egg and work the dough into a smooth ball of potato mixture. It won’t take much effort to get to this stage, and your bench shouldn’t have much excess dough stuck to it – use a little more flour if necessary.
- Divide dough into quarters, rolling each ball out into a long sausage shape (re-flour bench slightly if necessary), then cut rough 2cm pieces and pinch gently in the middle to form your gnocchi – place onto a clean dry tea towel while you continue to make the remaining gnocchi.
- Cook gnocchi in your pot of boiling water in small batches for roughly 2 minutes – or until the gnocchi rises to the surface. Scoop out with a large slotted spoon (gently shaking off excess liquid) and place in serving bowl, covering with a spoonful of sauce and topping with Parmesan cheese to serve.