Saturday, 5 February 2011

Gnocchi di patate – Potato gnocchi

An Estonian reader requests a gnocchi lesson so here goes.

Light and airy pillows of potato and parmesan – that is what I wanted to achieve when I experimented on Friday night with different ratios of flour, parmesan, eggs and potato. The tasting team were torn between two variants. Finally, decisively, I’ve plumped for the variant given below: the 5:1:1 recipe.

As you can see from the photo, I’ve served the gnocchi with pesto but you may prefer butter and grated parmesan, or tomato sauce with prosciutto or even gorgonzola melted in cream. Whatever you do, don’t drown the gnocchi. They’re simple souls that cannot swim. The point is the gnocchi, not the sauce.

Big tip: don’t skin and boil the potatoes – they become waterlogged and then need more flour to cohere. Bake them in the oven or cook them in a microwave.

Potato gnocchi with pesto
Ingredients (easily enough for 4)

500g potatoes, cooked and peeled

100g plain flour

100g grated parmesan

salt and pepper

½ tsp grated nutmeg

2 large eggs

100g pesto

40g butter

3tbl olive oil


1. Bake the potatoes in their skins, in the oven or a microwave until they yield to finger pressure.

2. Once they are cool enough to handle, skin them and chop them into blobs. Put them through a ricer or a mouli or failing that mash them thoroughly. Do not process them unless you want to use the results for wallpapering.

3. Combine thoroughly with the flour, parmesan, salt and pepper and nutmeg.

4. Gradually mix in the two beaten eggs. Once the mixture coheres you may not need all the egg. The mixture should be sticky but not gloopy. (I’m not sure what the Estonian for gloopy is but we want something like the texture of a moist bread dough.)

5. Roll the mixture into a ball, wrap in cling film and refrigerate to firm it up.

6. Flour a rolling board and cut the gnocchi mixture into four lumps.

7. Roll these out into a sausage shape about two cms. in diameter, then cut off pieces about 1 cm. in width. Smaller is good – they cook quicker.

8. Roll each piece into a little ball, and, if you prefer, into a flatter longer more traditional gnocchi shape.

9. Have ready a wide pan several inches deep with simmering water. Poach a gnocchi for three minutes to test the cooking time. Adjust if necessary. Then poach the remaining gnocchi, and as they are cooked lay them on a tea towel to drain.

10. Melt the butter in a frying pan with the olive oil and gently sauté the gnocchi, adding the sauce. Serve.

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