I was 15 when my grandmother Cristina taught me how to make gnocchi. It was a sunny Sunday morning. Every Sunday she and my grandad would come over for lunch. Before then it had never crossed my mind that gnocchi were challenging to make or that some people get petrified at the thought of making them. Are they going to melt in the water? Are they going to be as hard as stones?
Recently I was talking to a friend and to my great surprise he said that he had tried many times to make gnocchi but every time they ended up melting in the saucepan rather than in the mouth, as they should! So I thought I would include this recipe and share some little tips to ensure that such things don’t happen ever again to anyone else…
For the tomato sauce
- 1.5l bottle of tomato passata
- 2 table spoons oil extra virgin olive
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt as required
For the Gnocchi
- 1kg red potatoes
- 1 egg
- 300 g flour
- Salt as required
- Bunch of basil
- 50g Parmesan
- 500g well drained mozzarella
There are few important things to keep in mind. Bring the pan to the boil, salt the water, boil the potatoes with skin on. As soon as they are well cooked, might take between 30 minutes or longer, you need to be brave and peel them immediately, even if that means burning your fingers.
What it will look like as you go along…Ready?
As soon as this is done, mash the potatoes with a potato ricer. Before starting doing anything with them, they need to cool down. If you have time on your hands, just leave them alone for 2 hours. If you are in a rush, put them in the fridge or the freezer. Once they are cool, add the flour to a large bowl, create a well in the flour, add the mashed potatoes and the egg. Now, what comes next will need to be done in as little time as possible. Because the more you work the mixture, the more you encourage the potatoes to release water which is one of the reasons why the dough won-t be strong enough and collapse once in the water. Mix the egg with the potato mixture and start incorporating. Work vigorously and quickly until the dough absorbed all the flour and it doesn-t stick to your hands. If it needs more flour, go ahead but the more flour the harder the gnocchi will be. You can reach up to 350 g of total flour, but set yourself the target for 300.
Now divide the dough in 4 equal pieces. Each piece will be divided in two and you will need to create thin snakes by rolling the dough with your hands with a movement that sees both your hands moving and rolling from the inside towards the outsides, as if you were pushing the strip of dough and make it grown in length.
You will create many long snakes and you will cut bits out of them. I prefer small gnocchi, but you might want to cut bigger chunks. It will depend on your taste. Every time you do that make sure you dig the knife into flour so that the bits of gnocchi won-t get stuck to the knife.
Move to big trays dusted with flour and distance each gnocco from each other.
Bring to boil a very large saucepan of salted water, and add gnocchi in 3 goes, so that they are not crowded in the saucepan. Prepare a big oven dish with some tomato sauce on. Take gnocchi out of the sauce pan with a ladle with holes when they rise to the surface and place them in the oven dish you previously laid with tomato sauce. Once the first round is done, cover in more tomato sauce, sprinkle some cubed mozzarella and move to the next batch and repeat the operation every time.
Add extra mozzarella cubes, cover in extra hot tomato sauce, sprinkle plenty of parmesan, add some basil leaves. Heat the oven to 200 degrees, when at the right temperature, add the tray of gnocchi and let cook until all mozzarella has melted! Serve hot.