"This is the most brilliant tomato sauce – its versatility is limitless. Pour over pasta, braise vegies in it, use as a pizza base or between layers of a vegie lasagna or here, with gnocchi. It needs nothing else, intense with fragrant garlic and the intensity of perfectly vine-ripened tomatoes. As for the gnocchi, there seems to be common perception that it’s difficult to make. So long as you stick to a couple of hard and fast rules – to not overcook and water log the potatoes and to squeeze instead of knead the gnocchi dough, I promise all will be well." Poh Ling Yeow, Poh & Co.
- 2 kg vine ripened tomatoes
- ⅓-½ cup (80 ml) olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced finely or chopped
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 1 handful basil leaves, torn
- freshly ground black pepper or chilli flakes, to taste
- 1 kg Desiree potatoes, skins scrubbed and left on (if you are new to the game, Dutch Creams or Kipfler will guarantee success because of the higher starch content, but are a little dearer)
- 200 g plain flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 100 g parmigiano-reggiano or parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 1 large free-range egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tsp salt
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Soaking time 10 minutes
To make the sauce, remove the stems from the tomatoes and score the skin of each tomato all the way round its center so the score line divides the tomato in half. Place the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with freshly boiled water. Weigh the tomatoes down with a small saucer and wait for 5-10 minutes. Drain the tomatoes, then peel and discard the skins (these should slide off with ease). For a lovely handmade texture, cool the tomatoes a little first then squeeze to crush them with your hands but expect some of it to land on the front of your shirt! If this doesn’t appeal to you, simply chop roughly. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil and briefly sauté the garlic until aromatic but not colored. Add the tomatoes and salt. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until reduced and thickened. When you are satisfied with the consistency, add the basil at the last minute so it retains a bright color and lively flavor. Add pepper or chilli flakes to taste and cover to keep warm until gnocchi is ready.
In a large pot, cover the potatoes with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender – so the tip of a knife is easily inserted. Drain and cool briefly. Hold the potatoes with a tea towel or oven mitt in one hand and peel the skin off with the other. Make sure not to overboil your potatoes or they will crack and become waterlogged. The issue with this is you’ll need way more flour to bind the mixture which will make your gnocchi hard and chewy rather than soft and pillowy.
Begin by roughly mixing the flour, salt and parmesan in a large mixing bowl. To mash the potatoes, use a mouli or a potato ricer or mash with a fork and push through a sieve. Add the potato and egg to the flour, salt and parmesan mixture, then gently squeeze until just combined. The texture should feel like very soft play dough, but it shouldn’t stick to your hands. Dust the bench with flour, break off small amounts of dough and gently roll into 1 cm diameter sausages. With a knife, cut off 2 cm sections, roll them in plain flour to prevent sticking and rest them on a tray ready to boil.
In a large pot, boil plenty of salted water (1.5 litres to 1 tablespoon salt). Shake excess flour off the gnocchi before tossing into the boiling water. When the gnocchi is cooked, they will float. Gently scoop them out with a slotted spoon and lower straight into the tomato sauce. Handle the gnocchi very gently, so you don’t end up with a porridge of potato! Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of grated parmigiano-reggiano and garnish with a generous amount of chopped parsley.
Photograph by Ben Dearnley.
Reproduced with permission from the book Poh’s Kitchen by Poh Ling Yeow, published by ABC Books/HarperCollins Publishers Australia 2010.