Some of the greatest things on earth come from the humble potato. Think about it…Vodka, fries, potato chips (or ‘crisps’), and my personal favourite: gnocchi.
For those of you who are in the dark, gnocchi is an Italian dish and is basically small dumplings made from potatoes, flour, and eggs. It sounds simple and that’s because it is. Many people have never eaten or even heard of gnocchi before because there seems to be this stereotype that it is a difficult dish to make; however, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, there is quite a bit of prep involved in the process, but gnocchi is harder to say than it is to make. (On that note, it is not pronounced ‘ga-notch-i’. The ‘g’ is silent.)
2 cups of potato, peeled, boiled and mashed
1 cup of flour
(*This is the ratio my family use. We don’t really have set measurements because it’s a family recipe that has been passed down from my great-grandmother who worked with estimates. In this case, I used 12 potatoes that ended up being just over 5 cups of mash. Therefore I used 2 and a bit cups of flour and 3 eggs. If you hate me by this stage of the recipe, I do understand.)
1. Place your potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil on a medium heat. Allow to boil until soft.
2. Once the potatoes are soft, drain in a colander and then place them back in the pot. Mash the potatoes until there are no lumps. Use a measuring cup to measure how many cups of mash you have. From here you’ll be able to decipher how many eggs and how much flour you’ll need.
3. Once the potato has cooled a bit you can start adding the eggs. Add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4. Measure out the flour and pour out onto a work surface or counter top. Scrape the egg and potato mixture out of the bowl and on top of the flour. Bring the mixture together with the flour gently using your hands to form a dough. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour. Be sure not to let the dough stick to the surface! (It can be a mission to clean).
5. Gently knead the dough, adding flour as required, until a firm yet soft ball has formed. The dough should bounce back when you poke it. (My brother says the dough is ‘fighting back’ when this happens).
6. Cut off pieces of the dough to roll into long fingers about 2cm in width. Cut these fingers into little rectangles of dough. Roll these little pieces of dough up against a fork to create a grooved look on one side with a dent on the other side.
7. Once you have used up all of your dough, it’s time to cook the gnocchi. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. To ensure that the gnocchi don’t stick together or dry out after cooking, prepare a baking tray with some melted butter or olive oil and keep in a warm oven beneath your stovetop.
8. Once the water is boiling, gently drop in a few gnocchi at a time, no more than 10 or so and wait. When the gnocchi float up to the surface again they are ready. Remove the cooked gnocchi using a straining ladle and place in the baking tray, coating with the butter or olive oil. Repeat this process until all the gnocchi has been cooked. Make sure that your pot of water is simmering throughout the cooking process.
FOR THE SAUCES
One of the most wonderful things about gnocchi is that it goes well with so many different sauces. I’ve had it with bolognese, sage butter, rosemary and olive oil, gorgonzola and so many other different varieties I’ve honestly lost count. My favourite is usually anything butter-based however. This time my brother made a delicious ‘beurre noisette’, or in layman’s terms, a burnt-butter sauce. Simply heat up a pan (or in this case roasting pan) and place a few big slices of butter inside. Once the butter begins to melt and foam on the surface, add a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and stir around with a whisk. Continue to whisk the butter and rosemary until the butter starts to turn a golden brown colour. You can also tilt the pan to help move the melted butter around from one end of the pan to the next. Add half of the cooked gnocchi to the pan of rosemary beurre noisette and coat with a spoon. You can place this tray in the oven at around 100℃ to keep warm while you make the next sauce.
Gorgonzola & Parma Ham
The second sauce that we decided to make was gorgonzola with parma ham. To make the sauce all you need to do is make a simple béchamel and add a block or two of blue cheese. To make the béchamel, add some butter to a pot and melt. Once melted, add some flour and whisk for about 5 minutes to allow the starch to cook. The rule of thumb here is roughly 2 tablespoons of butter to 1 tablespoon of flour. (You’ll be able to see the correct consistency in the photograph provided.) Once you’ve made your roux (butter and flour), slowly pour about 2 cups of milk into the pot, whisking constantly. Once again, there is no rule here, you can add more milk if you so wish it just depends on your preferred consistency of the sauce. Continue whisking and stirring the sauce over a low-medium heat until it comes to the boil. This is the most important step of a béchamel recipe: the mixture must boil otherwise the flour won’t cook and you’ll end up with a sauce that tastes bitter and floury. Once the sauce has boiled and is nice and thick, season it with salt, pepper and a little nutmeg (only about a pinch as it has a very strong flavour). Next, crumble in 1-2 blocks of blue cheese (I prefer a stronger taste) and stir until it has all melted into the sauce. You can either pour the sauce over the gnocchi when you serve it or place the sauce in a roasting pan with the other half of the gnocchi and coat with a spoon. Place a few slices of parma ham on top of the gorgonzola gnocchi to serve. Rocket goes really well with this too!
Gnocchi is one of the greatest meals to enjoy as a family. Growing up, it was definitely my favourite thing to eat around a big dinner table with all of my loved ones. That’s why it was particularly special to make this with my brother when he was back from university these past holidays.
If that’s not an expression of pure satisfaction I don’t know what is!