Join resident chef Mario Matassa as he shows us how to make perfect gnocchi with this step by step recipe!
In the kitchen, nothing heralds the beginning of autumn for me like the first bowl of steaming gnocchi. I love pasta, of course, but that’s a dish I eat all year round. A bowl of homemade gnocchi is something more of an occasion, and the season begins now, as the leaves start to fall, mushrooms make their appearance on market stalls and pumpkins are at their very best.
On the comfort food scale, I would argue, it is difficult to imagine anything that tops a bowl of gnocchi. Yet, oddly, many of my friends shy away from the challenge of making them at home, preferring to eat them at a restaurant or buy from the supermarket. Sometimes I wonder if the problem is one of pronunciation (gnaw-kee!) or one of technicality? A friend who lives in Ireland told me that he gave up after two successive batches dissolved before his eyes when he put them into boiling water. The truth is, they’re actually very simple and quick to make, and if you follow a few simple rules, you’re guaranteed to avoid a gnocchi meltdown.
The key to gnocchi perfection is all in the potato. You want a floury variety that will absorb the water and bind well with the flour. As for the dough, it should be neither sticky nor too dry, and it should be firm enough to roll. If it feels too wet, just add a little extra flour. Once you’ve mastered the basic dough, you’ll be amazed at how quickly a batch of gnocchi for four people can come together. As for how you dress your gnocchi, there are frankly endless possibilities – from a basic tomato sauce to a creamy Gorgonzola with walnuts, to seasonal porcini with garlic and parsley butter. The choice is yours!
PREPARATION: 45 minutes
COOKING: 15 minutes (for the potatoes), 3 minutes (for the gnocchi)
- 500g floury potatoes
- 400g plain flour
- 2 medium free-range eggs
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- a grating of nutmeg
1 First peel your potatoes – you want to make sure you get all the skin off, as you would for mash, so we end up with perfectly textured gnocchi. Then boil the potatoes in lightly salted water. Don’t over-boil – they should be soft but not disintegrating. Mash and allow to cool for about 15 minutes.
2 Meanwhile, preferably on a wooden surface, though a perfectly clean work surface will do, pour out your flour and form it into a ring. Make a little indentation in the centre with your knuckles and then add to this your salt, olive oil, your grating of nutmeg and finally your eggs.
3 Once your mashed potatoes are cool to the touch (we don’t want to cook the eggs at this point), place handfuls of the mash evenly over the flour and egg mixture. Do wait for the potatoes to cool down, but don’t leave the kitchen. You will find it easier to work with slightly tepid potatoes than cold.
4 Now comes the fun bit! Time to mix everything together. Work slowly from the outside of the flour ring inwards. Feel the dough as you go. The consistency should be neither too wet nor too dry. If it is, don’t be afraid to add a little extra flour or a little extra water, but try to adjust this only once.
5 When the pasta has taken form, knead it gently for just a couple of minutes. You don’t have to work it like you would bread dough. For gnocchi it’s just about getting an evenly incorporated ball of dough. You will know it is ready when it lifts easily from the work surface without falling apart.
6 Now, using just your hands, slowly roll the dough out into a long, thick baguette shape. This process takes patience and care, but no great technical skill, so just take your time. If your baguette gets too long for your work surface, simply cut it in half. Cut your rolled out dough into evenly sized pieces.
7 Now working with your fingers, rather than your hands, and working methodically from the centre of each ball of dough, roll out long, thin snakes of dough. These are going to make the final gnocchi shapes, so make them an inch or so thick. You can sprinkle a little extra flour onto the board if you feel the dough sticking.
8 With a knife or a dough scraper, cut your gnocchi. I usually cut cherry-size balls, but you can cut slightly smaller or larger gnocchi if you prefer. The main thing is to cut them to a consistent size. Once they are cut, you can add an additional sprinkling of flour to stop them sticking together.
9 Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi and give them a gentle stir with a wooden spoon. When the water comes back to the boil, the gnocchi will float to the top. They are now ready. Remove them with a slotted spoon and add them directly to the sauce of your choice.
There are plenty more delicious Italian-inspired recipes here.