I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel the damp tendrils of Autumn approaching. There are a few leaves starting to turn brown and spiral desultorily to the pavement. And mornings are noticeably cooler.
Not that this is a bad thing, not least because I was an Autumnal baby and feel an affinity with this time of year. And, because I like to eat to suit the season, I can cook more substantial food like gnocchi. Although I like to retain a bit of summery lightness.
Up till now I ‘ve only ever bought these Italian mini-dumplings from the shop or eaten them out. The contrast has been stark. The ones I’ve bought (with a few honourable – and pricey – exceptions) have tended to the sticky and heavy, squatting in my stomach like some sort of primeval beastie from the deeps, gurgling and groaning. So these days I steer clear.
Some of the ones I’ve eaten out though, wow, a completely different spoonful of spud. Light, airy, fluffy and so very tasty. Compared to Mr Sainsbury’s best gnocchi they seemed to float cloud-like from my fork and down my gullet.
So, unsure of how hard it might be, I determined to make my own, to see how lump-like, or otherwise, they were. Happily, using a recipe I found in Kate Caldesi’s Italian Cookery Course, it all seemed pretty straight forward.
To add a summery feel to affairs, I made a zesty veggie ragu. Replacing the heaviness of meat with a herby zingy ingredients made for a light sauce that balanced the potatoey parcels.
While I didn’t achieve the fluffy nirvana of Locatelli’s gnocchi, for a first attempt they weren’t bad. Tastier and lighter than supermarket efforts, and surprisingly easy to make. This is a recipe I will practice.
What’s really great is that you can shape them how you like, if you want large, fork formed ovals, them you can make them. If you’re lazy, like me and are happy with small pillows, then that’s what you do. Hell, if you want teddy bears or taj mahal shaped gnocchi, knock yourself out. I love cooking like that.
Enough for four decent sized portions
I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to make Gnocchi. although there is one thing I’d change. Having just bought a Magimix, and fired up with magi-enthusiasm, I used it to puree the potatoes.
Next time, I’d rice/mash them. The puree was a little too sticky and elastic, I think ricing them would put a bit more air into the mash, making them a little lighter. Although that might be down to the type of potato I used.
Cook the potatoes (in their skins) in boiling water until soft. The time it takes will depend on the size of the potatoes. I had five medium potatoes and they took about 30 mins. While still hot, drain them and hold in a tea towel and peel them. Put the potatoes through a ricer/Magimix/masher.
Stir about a third of the flour and the egg into the potato to form a light dough. Put the rest of the flour on a board and tip out the dough on to it. Knead the potato dough into the flour until it forms a pliable dough. Add more flour if necessary.
Break the dough into handfulls and roll out into thin sausages about a centimetre thick. Chop into 2cm long pieces. Drop into boiling water. When they float they’re done. Stir into the ragu, grate over the Parmesan and the chopped basil.
1 small red pepper
2 stalks of celery
1 clove garlic
.5 tsp marmite, harissa, dark brown sugar, tomato ketchup
1 bay leaf
1 tsp-ish dried oregano
1 tin chopped tommies
A little water
Dice the onion, celery and pepper and sweat in extra virgin olive oil for 15-20 minutes over a low heat. Crush the garlic and stir it into the vegetable. Stir in everything else and simmer over the lowest possible heat for about 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning to taste.
Stir the gnocchi into the sauce, shred the basil and stir that in. Grate over the Parmesan and serve.