I make my own gnocchi

Somewhere, on one of the blogs about the place that I frequent, someone asked something to the effect of, “And who makes their own gnocchi anyway?” As I commented, actually, I do. (Which makes me think of nothing so much as the “You’re all individuals” scene from The Life of Brian.)

My dad taught me how to make gnocchi. Nearly 20 years ago (I think) we had gone to my parents’ place for the weekend. When I woke on Sunday morning there was a delicious smell spreading through the house, which turned out to be nothing but a pot of peeled potatoes boiling up. I think they were speaking to my Irish ancestry. It turned out that Dad was making gnocchi, which in their most simple form are just potato and flour dumplings. The particular dish he was making is called, “Strangolapreti” or “Priest choker.” The legend goes that once, a priest gorged so much of it that he choked to death in his haste to eat more and more. The name seems to be applied to a variety of gnocchi dishes; we (as in, Dad and I) apply it to gnocchi served with a tomato and basil sauce.

potatoesTo make your gnocchi, start with about a kilo of floury old potatoes. Stephanie Alexander says you should leave the skin on, but Dad and I always peel them. Wash and peel them, cut them into chunks, put them in a saucepan and cover them with water, and boil them until they are soft. You may want to add some salt to the water, depending on your tastes. Then mash them, without any additions at all – no butter, no cream, not even any of the cooking water. Just make plain mashed potatoes. Don’t be tempted to cook the taties early in the day, and then set them aside until just before you are ready to make the gnocchi. Mash them straightaway, so that you release the moisture from the mash. Then leave the mash to cool.

Once the mash is cool, add about 450 grams of flour, and mix it in to form a dough. Very roughly, the proportion of potato mash to flour is about 1 to slightly less than half. So if you use say, 500 grams of taties, then you might use about 225grams of flour. These days, I mix up the dough in my trusty Kenwood mixer, but before I had this marvellous machine, I used the potato masher to mix the flour in and form a smooth dough.

doughrollThen you need to roll and cut and roll again. Sprinkle flour over your worksurface, and don’t hold back. You’ll need plenty, to prevent the dough from sticking to the bench (or countertop). Get a handful of dough, and shape it into a long roll, slightly fatter than your thumb – maybe 1.5cm in diameter. Then using a sharp knife, cut the roll of dough into little dumplings, about the size of the first joint of your thumb. Not too big! But not too small either.

The next step is fun, but it’s only possible if you have a gnocchi paddle, which can be obtained in the Adelaide Central Markets, or at least, they could be 11 years ago, when my gnocchipaddleDad got one for me. For many years, Dad used my mother’s butter paddles (my mother can make butter, and she has an excellent glass-sided churn, so perhaps I should ask her to make some when we are there over Christmas, and blog the process…), but he has a proper gnocchi paddle now too, dating from the same excursion to the markets about 11 years ago. It’s just a small wooden paddle, with grooves running down it.

Sprinkle the paddle with flour (plenty!) and run each dumpling down it, using a fork, to create a ribbed surface. Put the rolled gnocchi onto a floured plate, trying to leave a bit of space between each one, so they don’t stick together. gnocchiroll2 If you start with a kilo of potatoes, you will need to use several plates, or layer your dumplings on one plate, with waxed paper or baking paper between each layer. If you don’t have a paddle, just roll each dumpling into a rough ball, and then press your thumb gently into the middle of it to make a small round dimpled dumpling. You could press each one with a fork, to get the grooves, which will help the sauce to stick.

While you are doing all this, you will have also been cooking up your tomato and basil sauce. It’s just a basic pasta / pizza / anything tomato sauce, but with plenty of fresh basil. Peel and finely dice one onion, and fry it gently in olive oil until it is soft, together with some crushed garlic, and maybe a little bit of grated ginger, and possibly even a tiny touch of chilli. When the onion is soft, add a can or two of tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Leave the mix to simmer gently until it has thickened slightly. At some stage, nick out to the garden and get about 10 big basil leaves, then wash and chop them, and add them to the tomato mix. Earlier is better, so the flavour has time to develop. Ideally, you will want your sauce to be ready at about the same time as you start cooking the gnocchi.

cookinggnocchiGet your biggest saucepan (I use my stockpot) and fill it with water and bring it to a rolling boil. While it is coming to the boil, lightly grease a large oven proof dish, and start the oven heating to about 200 degrees celsius.

To cook the gnocchi, drop the dumplings into the water, one at a time. Once you have 20 or so, or maybe 25, depending on how big your pot is, stop adding dumplings, and wait for the ones you have thrown in to start rising to the surface. When they are floating at the surface, they are done. strangolapretiUsing a slotted spoon, fish them out and put them into your oven dish. I often put a spoonful of sauce in the dish before I start putting cooked gnocchi into it, and stir them around gently so that they are covered by the sauce, again to stop them from sticking together.

Rinse and repeat, until all the gnocchi are cooked. Stir any remaining sauce through the gnocchi, and then sprinkle plenty of grated parmesan on top. Put the dish into the oven for five to ten minutes, long enough for the parmesan to get all bubbly and melty.

And that’s all there is to it. Serve with a fresh salad.

gnocchimeal

You can, apparently, make all sorts of complicated gnocchi, with eggs, and pumpkin, and spinach, and so on, but I don’t. I just make plain potato gnocchi, which is very simple, and very cheap! This is a great meal to make if your housekeeping budget for the week is a bit stretched, and you’ve got guests coming for dinner. Also, people seem to be terribly impressed if you make your own gnocchi. I don’t see why… it’s time consuming, but not difficult. You can make other sauces too, of course; I have a vague recollection of making blue cheese and cream sauce many years ago, which was absolutely divine, but oh so rich. These days, I prefer tarter flavours, so it’s always tomato sauce. These little potato dumplings can also be very good for children who are fussy eaters; they may eat the dumplings without any sauce, or with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top, or maybe a drizzle of olive oil. Or…. Watties Tomato Sauce.

Who else makes their own gnocchi?

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17 responses to “I make my own gnocchi

  1. I’ve never made my own gnocchi, in fact it’s something I’ve never cooked for the family at all. Perhaps it’s time to change that!

  2. I do, I do! Well, actually it’s my husband and my son who do it – they also make pasta, pizza, tortillas and bread. When we lived in Canada, everyone was extremely impressed. Here in Argentina it’s a lot more common (but I’m still impressed).

    Even easier than potato gnocchi, and much faster, is ricotta gnocchi – just ricotta, flour, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and whatever other yummy flavours you feel like: basil, walnut, nutmeg, etc. We’ve made this as a playdate project and it worked really well.

  3. I’ve never made my own pasta, but my Dad makes his own. I must get some lessons from him over Christmas. And get myself a pasta machine.

    Ricotta gnocchi – sounds very yummy. Perhaps I could make it with the girls one hot hot inside day (Adelaide is in the midst of a heat wave, in November (!) and the only way to cope is to shut the house up and keep the cool in and stay inside).

  4. Oh gods, that looks DELICIOUS. My partner isn’t keen on gnocchi, else I’d totally be trying to make some of this myself!

  5. That does look good. I can almost smell it. I do make all my own pasta sauces, abjuring those nasty bottled ones, but I’ve never made gnocchi. I love love love potatoes, so it’s something I should try.

  6. We make gnocchi! And pasta. Our standby is potato gnocchi, with the potatoes mashed in a potato ricer picked up second-hand at the local markets, though we have experimented with a variant using breadcrumbs (a bit too stodgy for me).
    Quick and easy sauce – fry sage leaves and garlic in butter until crispy, toss butter and extras over gnocchi and grate parmesan on top.
    Now I’m hungry.

  7. Yes, the sage and burnt butter sauce thing is very yummy.

    Deborah, if I ate one normal serve of the fabulous dish in your photo, I would put on five kilos. Like, immediately.

  8. ooh lovely. Made gnocchi once years ago, but need to do it again soon.

  9. “Who else makes their own gnocchi?”

    I shall start this weekend.

  10. Respect. The first time Justine and I tried to make gnocchi I can report that they somehow became glued back to each other in the pot (too little flower, methinks) and as a result we cooked one single large humongous gnocco. It was a ball of poster glue really, but we insisted on eating of it as much as we could bear.

    Now Justine is our official gnocchi maker and is in fact at it as I write. I’m very much in favour of the butter and sage sauce, and yay for ricotta gnocchi they are divine.

    (Also: you should make them on Thursday. I cooked the potatoes yesterday but we missed our window later on.)

  11. I have made my own gnocchi (but not for ages) and make my own pasta and lasagne sheets (same deal, just one not sliced).

  12. Gnocchi is the only thing in the Italian line I’ve ever made that was a dismal failure. I had what looked like a lovely recipe for pumpkin gnocchi, and the ones that didn’t fall apart were gluey and unpleasant. So mad respect to you and your culinary skills. Perhaps I will try again.

    Also, I’d like to express thanks to Gio for slipping in the singular gnocco, which I plan to deploy in conversation as soon as circumstances permit.

  13. I made my own gnocchi once, back when I had enthusiasm for learning to cook. It was made with kumara and baked in the over covered in cheese – quite tasty we thought. But it only took 20 minutes to eat compared to an hour and a half to make so I never made it again.

  14. As one of the guests mentioned above I can’t count the number of times I’ve had Deborah’s gnocchi! The tomato sauce is amazing, the blue cheese divine but my favourite was the marsala sauce by a country mile ….

  15. I’d forgotten about the marsala sauce! Thank you for the lovely comment, Belinda.

    (pianissimo: I’ll pay you next weekend.)

  16. Oooh, kumera gnocchi sounds interesting. You could serve that with pork and apple sauce. Hmmm. But I must agree with violet: something that takes hours of devoted and hard work (as opposed to shoving something in the oven for three hours), that is all gone in 30 mins, is devotion above and beyond, most of the time. But OTOH, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious…

  17. The boy and I have been wanting to make our own gnocchi this month, so we will use your recipe and report back!
    I think I mentioned before he’s getting very foody – we stopped at an eccentric and off the wall restaurant near Daylesford recently, the Beer and Breakfast Bar, which I totally recommend, and he had rabbit gnocchi. The rabbit was kind of like prosciutto in the way it was prepared. It was a good contrast to the softness of the gnocchi. You could use prosciutto that way if you understandably were out of smoky cured rabbit.
    The nice waitress there was very impressed at his adventurous-ness.