Recently I have been pondering over the idea of making fresh pasta. I am, sadly, one of those people who love to make things from fresh, however painstakingly complex and expensive the recipes. My mother is often very frustrated with me, keen to buy the jar of lemon curd rather than the fresh lemons and sugar. But isn’t there something so special, and satisfying, about homemade food? I just can’t beat that feeling, proudly knowing that I have created something from scratch. Unfortunately I don’t own a pasta maker, but I was rather inspired after seeing a feature in last month’s Good Food Magazine for fresh gnocchi. So I decided to tackle this alternative Italian favourite.
In Italian gnocchi means dumpling, so for all you gnocchi virgins out there you can get an idea of what you’re getting yourselves into: a pillowy soft and doughy delight, the perfect alternative to pasta. Gnocchi recipes can differ slightly; the dough can be made from semolina flour, potato, cornmeal and even bread crumbs. You can even add colour to your gnocchi by combining it with blanched spinach, or even add flavour with the addition of basil or rosemary. I followed Antonio Carluccio’s recipe and made my gnocchi with potato, the most common ingredient for the dough, one which ensures, according to the big man himself, the ‘perfect plate of gnocchi’.
Ingredients:Makes four large portions.
1.5kg large King Edwards (good quality potato makes for better gnocci)(just a warning, this will come to 800g of cooked potato)200g Italian ‘00’ flour, plus extra for dusting (available in any big supermarket)1 medium egg
- Heat the oven at 200°C. Prick your potatoes with a knife, leave them with their skins on and roast them in the oven on a tray for about an hour, or until they are soft and tender. Once they are baked leave them to cool so that they can be handled, and then scoop out the soft flesh. Once all the potato is collected, place it into a large bowl and mash thoroughly.
- Now add the flour and egg to the mashed potato and mix. As the ingredients form into a dough begin to use your hands and work the mixture until it comes together into a smooth consistency. Add a little flour if necessary.
- Take a little of the dough at a time from the pile and form into sausage shapes on a floured work surface at approximately 2cm in diameter. Then cut the sausage into 2cm chunks with a knife, at this point they will look like tiny little white pillows.
- The Italians like to indent their homemade gnocchi with a fork as the shape helps the gnocchi retain the sauce. Lightly press each pillow of gnocchi away from you along the prongs of a fork to create ridges to complete the authentic Italian look. This procedure is a bit of a fiddle, but it is important to be patient and very gentle, these little pillows need plenty of care. Once finished place the gnocchi onto a clean floured towel until needed.
- To cook, simply place the gnocchi into plenty of salted, boiling water. At first the gnocchi will sink, but after a minute they will gently float to the top of the water, indicating that they are ready. Scoop them out with a spoon and transfer to your sauce.
My gnocchi turned out brilliantly; I chose to serve it with will lots of butter, sautéed spring onion, mushrooms, garlic and a touch of chilli. The Italians often toss their gnocchi in butter with a sprinkling of parmesan; decadent simplicity. Carluccio recommends a blue cheese and spinach sauce to accompany his creation, but the possibilities are endless and I’m sure you have a few ideas of your own. This recipe serves approximately four large portions, so feel free to half the recipe. However, for quite a time-consuming recipe it might be better to make a large amount and then put some in the freezer, that way you’re set for a couple of weeks.
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