After a (really, horrifically) failed and soggy attempt at making gnocchi following an internet recipe, I skyped my all-knowing Italian grandma to see if she’d share her secrets in the art of making gnocchi. The conversation went something like this:
“It’s very easy. You boil one potato. Or two. Three if they’re not too big. Or four. Once they’re done, you peel them and mash them.” (At this point she finally manages to focus her vision on the video.) “Oh my! Your hair is so long! Look at that!”
“Thank you! Now focus, Grandma.”
“Okay okay. So you mash them and add butter. Or milk. Both if you want. Then a pinch of white pepper and nutmeg and then flour. Lots of flour. Until it can’t take it anymore flour.”
“Okay… lots… of… flour… any idea how much?”
“A LOT. Half a kilo…. a kilo…. I dunno. So then let the dough rest a bit.”
“Grandma, what about eggs? No eggs?”
“Oh! yeah! Of course! When you make the mash, that’s when you put an egg in. Just one. So then you roll out the dough into little sausages, cut into squares and then roll them onto a fork for the shape. If you’re awesome like me, this will be very quick and simple. Boil some water and FINITO!”
Okay, so she didn’t say those last bits about being awesome. But the rest is all true.
Potato Gnocchi with Sage and Butter Sauce
I have to admit, I was skeptical. She’s been making her own pasta for maybe 80 years and just knows how it should look, what to add, etc., all those things you can only gain through experience of making something countless times. Nevertheless, I set out to recreate her gnocchi following her instructions and was not disappointed! My best advice is to follow your instincts (which, if like mine, are next to none) and, as I’ve learnt, don’t be overly zealous about precise measurements.
Serves 3-4 people
Starchy Potatoes (3)
Egg (1 egg for every two large potatoes. It should be enough for 3 potatoes, but use 2 for more)
A LOT of flour (my grandma has no concept of measurements it seems. I’m guessing I used a bit less than half a kilo)
Milk and/or butter
- Stick a fork into your raw potatoes and then put them in water to boil. This takes around 30 minutes, they need to be soft enough so you can easily put a fork through.
- Once done, leave them to cool and then peel them. The reason you leave the peel on and don’t cut the potatoes when you boil them is that, this way, they don’t get too watery!
- Add a splash of milk and a little knob of butter and mash them thoroughly. You don’t want any lumps, but also be careful that it doesn’t go gummy. If it does, it’s a-okay, you’ve not ruined anything. Yet.
- Add a pinch of nutmeg and white pepper. If you don’t have white pepper, black will do just fine; just don’t add too much.
- Add the egg and mix with a fork.
- Then, in a big bowl, start adding flour to the mash. Mix it in with your hand, kneading it, trying to make a homogenous dough. Keep adding until the dough is not sticky anymore and literally cannot absorb any more flour.
- Leave dough to rest for a bit, maybe 15 minutes. Not sure why we do this, maybe it’s just so my grandma can chill for a bit.
- Then, cut dough into smaller sections and roll them out into thin sausages on a dusted surface, maybe 1cm in diameter.
- With a knife, cut the sausage into little square dumplings, around 1cm across. The gnocchi will get bigger in the water, so don’t make them too big or they won’t cook all the way through!
- Now, either you can leave them like that if you’re lazy OR if you want to add texture and make a gnocchi shape, you take a fork and roll one side of your square dumpling onto it. There’s lots of youtube tutorials that help! Don’t worry if they’re all a bit psychadelic, adds to the charm (and texture experience).
- In a big pot with salted boiling water, add the gnocchi. Once they float and come to the surface, remove from the water. Takes a few mintues, and may need a stir every minute or so.
- DONE! Add sauce and serve straight away.
They are actually so tasty, that you can just serve them straight up with a bit of butter and sage. But they also go well with tomato sauce, bolognaise, cream, pesto.
For the sauce seen in the picture, I fried some leek and sage in butter, added some bacon and finally sundried tomatoes. A bit of salt and pepper for flavouring, but kept it very simple. At the last minute before serving, I added the gnocchi to coat them nicely with all the butter and DONE.
One two three four – SCORE
[Numerical ratings are out of four, where four is best/healthiest/hardest.]
Taste: 3.75 there’s few things in life, imho, that top freshly made pasta!
Difficulty: 3. It’s not hard, but it’s time consuming and laborious. Get ready to be covered in flour and work those biceps!
Healthiness: 2.5 Healthy homemade! Full of carbs though… but who’s counting? (Number Four – Number Four is counting, that’s who.)
Cost: 1. SERIOUSLY SERIOUSLY CHEAP. Just expensive in terms of opportunity cost of your time (shout-out to economists out there) and potential trauma should they go wrong.