In the past I’ve not really been convinced by gnocchi. They always seemed kind of dense and tasteless, and I’ve always thought I’d just prefer to have pasta instead.
Turns out, everyone who’d ever cooked them for me had just been rubbish. Not trying to claim I cook better than a restaurant (except in this case I totally am), but when I finally got around to making them myself, I discovered that gnocchi are the best thing ever.
It’s true that if you just prepare your gnocchi and boil them, like is often done, they’re kind of meh. Dense and stodgy, and there’s not really much to them. However, if you sauté them after boiling, they transform into little crispy, buttery nuggets that are just incredible. Somehow they become light and fluffy, totally different to the dense dumplings they were five minutes earlier.
Look at the difference! Just boiled:
Nothing special. But after a few minutes in a pan:
Sooo much better!
I’ll admit, making gnocchi is a little labour intensive, so I kept the sauce simple – in fact it’s barely a sauce at all, just some garlic butter, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Perfect Italian flavours for your little Italian gnocchi.
I’ll definitely be making gnocchi again next time I have a quiet Sunday ahead of me, and I feel like getting stuck into something in the kitchen. A word of caution: it’s best if you have a potato ricer – well, either that, or twenty minutes to spend mashing your potatoes and arms of steel. I got a bit lazy and a couple of my gnocchi ended up with little lumps of potato in, which kind of ruins the illusion of these fluffy dumplings.
- 750g potatoes (2 large potatoes)
- 200g plain flour, plus more for rolling and shaping
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 50g butter
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 2tbsp lemon juice
- 3tbsp pine nuts
- Black pepper
- Handful rocket leaves
- 30g vegetarian parmesan-style cheese
- 3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- To begin the gnocchi, you need to cook the potatoes. I baked mine at 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F) for around 2 hours (prick the skins a few times first), until cooked through. Yours might take a little less or more time, depending on the size of your potatoes. Alternatively you can boil them, but this method will make the potato wetter, so you might need to add more flour later.
- When the potatoes are fully cooked, scoop out the flesh the skins can be discarded or saved for an alternative use. Mash the potato flesh thoroughly use a ricer if you have one, or pass the flesh through a sieve. Combine the potato flesh with the flour, a good amount of salt, and the egg (I did this straight onto a floured worktop but you can use a bowl if you prefer). Mix with your hands until it all comes together into a dough you might need to add a little more flour if your potatoes were particularly wet.
- Roll the mixture out until it's around 1.5cm thick, and cut into 1.5cm strips. Roll each strip into a sausage (again you might need another sprinkling of flour to stop it sticking to the worktop), and cut into chunks mine were around 3cm long. If you want to get the traditional lines printed into the side of the gnocchi, press each piece gently with the back of a fork and roll a little.
- Bring a large pan of water to the boil, and drop the gnocchi in - you don't want to overcrowd the pan, so you might need to do a few batches. When the gnocchi start to float (they won't take long!), give them another twenty seconds or so, and then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon.
- The gnocchi are now edible, but I think they're much nicer if you sauté them.
- Melt the butter in a large frying pan, and add the gnocchi in a single layer (again, you'll probably need to do a couple of batches if so, only use half of each ingredient to begin with). Cook over a medium-high heat for several minutes, until the underside of each dumpling is golden brown. Turn each piece over (I found this was most easily done using tongs as they can be a bit slippery), and repeat on the other side.
- After the second side has been cooking for a minute or so, add the garlic and turn the heat down to medium-low. Add the basil, lemon juice, pine nuts and plenty of seasoning, and cook for 1 more minute.
- Serve the gnocchi topped with some fresh rocket and some shavings of parmesan, drizzled with a glug of extra virgin olive oil.