With all the CRAZY storms and overall gloomy and miserable weather we’ve been having here in Sydney lately, my food and cooking style has been leaning more towards autumn or winter rather than spring. When the weather is grey and cold, I always feel like baking, making things that are warm and comforting, as well as taking on edible projects that allow me to spend large chunks of my time trapped indoors leisurely pottering about the kitchen. Enter gnocchi.
Gnocchi is one of my all time favourite things to make (and eat obviously). If you’ve never had them before, I would summarise them by saying that they’re probably the closest edible equivalent to little pillows from heaven. I am not even exaggerating.
Sure, you can buy gnocchi from any supermarket, and sure, they’re going to taste ok (maybe even good), but they will never even come CLOSE to the ones you will make at home… Not to mention all the unnecessary additives thrown into the store-bought ones (but whyyy??). This is one of those things I just refuse to buy because of the massive difference in quality and taste. HUGE.
The good news is that making gnocchi could not be simpler. All you need is three incredibly basic and cheap ingredients: potatoes, flour and egg. The possibly not-so-good news is that they do take a bit of time to make, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing at all in my books, but just means that you have to make them on a slow day where you have some time to spare. The GREAT news is that they are INCREDIBLY fun to make, and will be so RIDICULOUSLY delicious they will make you swear-off buying packaged gnocchi forever.
This recipe calls for a little visual how-to, which is why it has taken me so long to share it with you. I make gnocchi often, but I always make it at night and so am unable to take any decent photos of the process. I finally planned to make them earlier in the day last week, so here we are! Yaay!
You start by cooking the potatoes. You need a good, starchy/floury potato, rather than a waxy variety. The type I find works best is the red-skinned ‘desiree’ potato, also called ‘red delight’ in Australia (other varieties that work well include ‘king edwards’, ‘idaho’, ‘sebago’ and ‘russet’. They all have different names in each country so just try to find a type that feels light and fluffy when cooked, not dense and waxy. The ones labeled as ‘baking’ potatoes are more likely to be suitable).
Find potatoes that are similar in size, as you will be cooking them whole and unpeeled, so the closer they are in size the more evenly they will cook in an equal amount of time. Boil them, skin-on, until tender, but not overcooked. A sharp thin knife should pierce the potato easily with no resistance. The less water the potatoes absorb, the better. Some people like to bake them in the oven, but I find that makes them way too dry and have had more success with traditional boiling.
After the potatoes cool for a bit, you will mash them. The best way is to use a potato ricer (pictured), because it fluffs up the potatoes so beautifully. Don’t bother peeling them, the skin will be left behind perfectly in the ricer while the flesh passes through. The second best tool is a food-mill (those old fashioned mashing tools). Third best is just a regular hand-held masher. Do not use a food processor or blender, as they will both cause the potatoes to be a gloopy mess. Trust me on this one.
While the mash is still warm, you will add the egg, season and mix through with a fork. Then, start adding the flour gradually, working it into the potato as gently as possible until it comes together into a super soft, pliable and smooth dough. Note that the less flour you add the better, and the less you handle/knead the dough the better. Too much flour and kneading will give you rubbery, tough little bullets instead of fluffy and delightful little dumplings
As soon as it forms a dough, dust it with flour, roll it out into a log and divide it into four sections, so that it is easier to work with.
You’ll roll out each section into a long rope and use a knife or pastry cutter to cut it into little bite sized pillows. Toss with a bit of flour and that is it!
Some people like to roll each individual little piece on the back of a fork (or a special wooden gnocchi board) to create ridges on them, for better sauce adhesion, but honestly I don’t bother. I tried it once and didn’t notice much difference, and it took ages to roll each and every gnocchi by hand. Also, I really like their shape as perfectly plump pillows!
At this point, you can either cook the gnocchi or freeze them for later. The recipe I’ve written yields quite a massive amount, and so I usually cook half right away and freeze the other half for another rainy lazy day. To cook it, you just plop them into salted, boiling water for a couple of minutes until they rise to the surface, then transfer them to your prepared sauce till coated. To freeze the gnocchi, place them in the freezer as they are, on a floured tray in a single layer until they are frozen, then transfer them into sealed bags/containers. This keeps them from sticking to each other.
My favourite sauce with gnocchi has to be this simple but super cheesy and delicious gorgonzola cream (which is literally just gorgonzola and cream), but any sauce you like will work!
I hope you decide to try this recipe the next time you have a little time on your hands and feel like spending it on a fun project in the kitchen. If you have kids, they will LOVE helping out too, and it’ll keep them busy for ages!
The results are utterly wonderful; perfectly fluffy and light pillows that almost melt in your mouth and are just the perfect comfort food for a cosy, chilly evening indoors.
- FOR THE GNOCCHI:
- • 1kg starchy potatoes (similarly sized, preferably smallish), unpeeled, scrubbed
- • 1 egg, lightly beaten
- • 1 tsp. salt
- • a pinch of ground nutmeg (optional)
- • 300g-350g plain flour (or typo 00 Italian flour if you can find it)
- FOR THE SAUCE: (this makes enough for half the quantity of gnocchi, double it if you are cooking the full amount)
- • 300ml cream
- • 150g soft gorgonzola cheese, or any soft blue cheese
- • grated/shaved parmesan cheese to serve
- Place the potatoes in a large pot. Cover with tap water (cold) and place onto high heat. Bring to the boil and cook for 30-45 minutes, until tender, and a thin sharp knife pierces through a potato easily without resistance. The time will vary slightly depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain them into a colander and leave them to cool and steam dry until they are still warm but cool enough to handle.
- Place each potato into a potato ricer (don’t bother peeling them) and press to mash them into tray or onto a clean work surface. Remove the peel from the ricer before adding your next potato. Repeat until all potatoes are mashed. Alternatively, you could use a food mill or a regular potato masher to mash the potatoes, just don’t use a food processor or blender (they will make the mash gluey and gloopy rather than light and fluffy).
- While the mash is still warm (not steaming hot), add the egg, salt and nutmeg (if using) and mix through with a fork. Sprinkle over about a third of the flour and start incorporating it into the potato with the fork. Gradually add more of the flour and stop when it just starts to come together into a very soft and pliable dough. I usually end up using about 320g of the flour, the less flour you use the lighter your gnocchi will be. Using your hands now, knead the dough just for a few seconds until it’s smooth, sprinkling with a little more flour if needed.
- Roll the dough into a log and divide it into four pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope (about 2.5-3cm/1” thick), sprinkling with flour to prevent sticking. Using a sharp knife or a pastry cutter, cut the ropes into bite-sized pieces. Toss the little pillows with a little flour and spread onto a floured tray to prevent sticking. At this point, you can either cook the gnocchi or freeze them, or cook half and freeze half (instructions for freezing in notes)*. The amount of sauce in the recipe above is enough for half the gnocchi (feeds 3-4), so if you plan on cooking the entire batch of gnocchi, double the sauce.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a full boil over high heat.
- While the water comes to a boil, prepare your sauce: simply combine the cream and the gorgonzola cheese into a wide, deep pan on medium-low heat until the cheese melts and the sauce is bubbling lightly.
- Once the water is boiling and the sauce is ready, cook the gnocchi: add about a quarter of the full amount of the gnocchi (or half if you are just cooking half the full amount) to the boiling water and give it a stir. Let the gnocchi cook until they rise to the surface, this takes only a minute or two. When they are floating on the surface, that means they are cooked! Remove them from the water carefully with a slotted spoon and add straight to the sauce in the pan. Allow the water to come to the boil again before adding the next batch of gnocchi. Repeat until all gnocchi is cooked. Toss the gnocchi with the sauce well to coat and serve immediately, with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top!