The Cooking Chook does gnocchi – Eeeeeek!
I’ll admit that I have the odd foodie fear. I’m reasonably adventurous when it comes to cooking/baking new dishes, and I love a challenge but there are dishes that will give the heebie-jeebies. They usually take the form of either the simplest of all recipes, or really, really difficult recipes. The really, really difficult recipes you could understand why I would be a little scared about attempting them, but it’s the simple recipes that do my head in the most. I call these recipes ‘sleeper’ recipes, and gnocchi falls into this category. You look at the ingredient list and method, and it all lulls you into a false sense of security. What could be so hard and scary about a recipe that involves 2 ingredients and 4 steps in the method? Everything! The biggest issue with gnocchi is making sure it doesn’t end up dense and stodgy, kinda like chomping on hard bubble gum – ewwww. How do you do this? Use a proper Italian Mama recipe! That’s where Lorraine Elliot, owner of one of my favourite food blogs Not Quite Nigella, comes in. Lorraine had the opportunity to learn how to make gnocchi from a true Italian Mama, Francesca, who hand makes pasta for her son’s restaurant, Puntino Trattoria, in Darlinghurst, Sydney. I’ve been told that the best way to overcome your fears is to face them head-on, and I took this particular blog post as a sign that this was the time to face my fear of making gnocchi. What better way to learn how to make a dish than from the ‘source’, right? I was quite nervous the entire time that I was making the gnocchi. At every step, I was unsure and not confident that I was going to be able to pull this off. When I asked my partner to taste test after scooping a piece of cooked gnocchi from the saucepan, there was a moment of silence……I panicked. I thought , for sure, that I had stuffed up and we would end up going out for burgers. Instead, he nodded and said, ‘Mmmmmm – that’s awesome!’. A sigh of release escape my lips. Now that he had tried the gnocchi, I decided I had to confirm his assessment and try a bit myself. As I bit into the gnocchi, it was soft and fluffly, nothing like what I had expected. It was beautiful. Thank you Francesca and Lorraine for making this wonderful foodie moment possible! This recipe makes about 4 decent sized serves of gnocchi.
1kg Desiree potatoes (or any floury potato)
350g Italian 00 flour, plus extra for dusting your work surface
Chuck the potatoes, with the skin on, into a saucepan and boil them until soft. This will take around 25-30 minutes. To test whether the potatoes are soft, use a skewer to pierce the potato. Don’t do this too often though, because you’ll end up introducing too much water into the potatoes. Drain. Whilst the potatoes are still hot, mash the potatoes using a potato ricer by pushing the potatoes, whole, through the ricer. Ditch the skins. Allow the mushed potato to cool completely. To speed up the cooling process, I spread the potato out over my clean work bench.
Chuck on a large saucepan of water on high heat to boil, so you can cook the gnocchi as soon as you make it. Add the flour to the mushed potato and use your hands to combine until you get a cohesive dough. Don’t work the dough too much though, as this will make the gnocchi dense. Take handfuls of dough at a time and roll into a log shape about 2cm in diameter.
Cut the dough into small bits about 1.5cm wide. Unlike Francesca, I don’t own a gnocchi board (although I’m thinking about getting one, now that I know how to make decent gnocchi), so I used a fork to make ridges in my gnocchi. Just gently roll the gnocchi over the tines, on the back of the fork.
Start heating your sauce in a separate saucepan. Place the gnocchi, in batches, into the boiling water. You don’t want to overcrowd the saucepan with gnocchi because the water temperature will drop too much, increasing the time you cook the gnocchi and making them soggy. The gnocchi is cooked once they float to the surface. Remove the cooked gnocchi using a slotted spoon, chuck it into your sauce, give it all a bit of a stir to coat the gnocchi and serve immediately.
Note: I haven’t made any changes to the original recipe; if it ain’t broke don’t fix it! I highly recommend you check out Lorraine’s post (which includes wonderful pictures of Francesca in action) on her blog, Not Quite Nigella by clicking here. I had some leftover beef ragu in the freezer, so I used that for the sauce. If you would like to see the recipe for the beef ragu, click here. With the leftover gnocchi, I placed them (uncooked) on a baking tray lined with baking paper and chucked that in the freezer for about an hour until the gnocchi was firm, then I popped them into a zip lock bag. Apparently, the gnocchi will keep in the freezer for about 2 months. When you want to cook them, don’t defrost them, cook them straight from frozen in boiling water, in small batches (so the water doesn’t cool down too much). The gnocchi is ready when they starting floating.