I love gnocchi, it tastes good and is easy and fun to make. Gnocchi is a very northern Italian thing, potatoes where a staple of the northern Italian diet therefore, Gnocchi was a good way of making other ingredients go further, flour for instance was expensive so by adding potatoes to it you could feed more people and make the flour go further.
Making Gnocchi is quite easy, but like most things it will take a couple of goes for you to get it just right, but once you do there are so many things you can do. You can replace half the potato with mashed cooked carrot, or beetroot, or blended sun dried tomatoes and black olives, or (one of my personal favourites) you can add good canned Tuna or crab to make a fantastic seafood gnocchi, or experiment with your own favourite ingredients.
There are two important things to remember when making gnocchi-
- Work quickly - Gnocchi needs to be made while the potato is still warm, otherwise the end product is very heavy and chewy.
- Work gnocchi as little as possible - The potato will absorb as much flour as you give it, all you will end up with is a floury tasting, heavy, rubber gnocchi, instead of something that melts in your mouth.
500g starchy potatoes (ideally Desiree), skin left on
1 egg, lightly beaten
170g plain flour
pinch of salt
Have all ingredients ready and to hand.
Pre heat oven to 200 degrees centigrade/ gas mark 6.
Place the potatoes in a pan and cover with cold water and bring to boil then simmer till tender (about 40 mins - 1 hour). Then place the potatoes in oven to dry quickly.
While potatoes are still hot, peel and then mash them fine or pass through a food mill into a bowl or onto a work surface.
Make a well in centre and add the egg and salt and just over half the flour, mix well then add more flour until you get a soft pliable dough.
Dust the work surface and flatten the dough into a rough circle. With a knife or by hand, divide the dough into four, then shape each of the four back into a circle.
Dust your hands with a little flour and then take the individual pieces of dough and roll each piece out into a long thing sausage shape, ideally about the width of a bread stick. Do this with all four pieces of dough.
With a knife cut the sausage lengths into one and a half centimetre nuggets, cut all the sausage shapes into pieces of equal size. If the gnocchi are different sizes they will not all cook evenly.
Lightly dusting with flour all the time press the tines of a fork gently into each dough nugget, this should flatten them slightly but should also give the gnocchi its ridges which helps the sauce cling to them.
You should end up with something like this. As you make each one place them on a lightly dusted tray ready to cook.
You should really cook the gnocchi, you can keep them for up to an hour but keep shaking the flour dusted tray to prevent them sticking. If cooking in a few hours you could always part cook the gnocchi. Place them a few at a time in boiling salted water until they float to the surface, then remove with a slotted spoon and place on a tea towel to dry then store in a airtight container. This is also a good way to prepare gnocchi for baked gnocchi dishes.