In Sorrento, gnocchi is boiled and then baked with a rich sugo (sauce), shredded buffalo mozzarella and torn basil which takes the Italian classic to a new level.
- 850 g starchy potatoes (such as russets or Desiree)
- sea salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 110-150 g “00” plain flour
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 French shallot, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, bashed (or finely chopped, if you like a more pungent aroma)
- 400 g can peeled tomatoes (or 400 g passata)
- small handful basil leaves, plus extra, to serve
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 large buffalo mozzarella ball, torn
- 25 g (¼ cup) grated parmesan
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.
1. For the gnocchi, place the unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan of water so they fit snugly and add 2 fists full of sea salt. Bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 35-40 minutes or until cooked through. Drain well and set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Pass the potatoes through a ricer (or use a potato masher but peel the potatoes first) and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Alternatively place the potatoes on a baking tray lined with paper, prick them with a fork and bake at 190ºC for 45-50 minutes or until soft. Scoop out the flesh and pass through the ricer.
2. To the warm mashed potato, add the egg yolk and a pinch of salt, then add the flour, a little at a time until well combined. Depending on your potatoes and the type of flour you use, you may need to use a little more or a little less than indicated. You want a soft dough that is pliable and not tacky. I normally end up using 120 g flour and use the rest for dusting while I’m shaping the gnocchi. Don’t be tempted to add too much flour though, or your gnocchi will be heavy.
3. Cut the dough into 4-5 pieces. Roll out each piece on a flour dusted work surface into a log, then cut each log into 2-3 cm pieces. You can leave them as is or roll them onto a gnocchi board or the tines of a floured fork, gently but like you mean it. As the gnocchi curl into the fork, the tine pattern will be embossed onto to them. Later, when coated in sauce, those very ridges will trap it in, for the joy of your palate. Once you have rolled all your gnocchi, dust them with flour and set aside.
4. For the sugo, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant (watch it closely as garlic burns very quickly, especially if finely chopped). Add the tomato and basil, season and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30 minutes or until slightly reduced. If it looks too dry, add a little water.
5. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
6. Working in batches, drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and as soon as they float to the surface, scoop out with a slotted spoon and drop them straight into the pan with the sugo. Gently toss into the sauce to allow the flavour to mingle. If you’re not using an oven friendly frying pan, tumble the gnocchi and sauce into an oven dish. Top with the torn buffalo mozzarella and parmesan cheese and bake for 15-20 minutes or until melted and bubbly. Serve hot, with freshly ground black pepper and a few basil leaves.
Silvia Colloca shares her Italian family secrets in the brand-new second-season of Cook like an Italian.