There is a special place in my heart for gnocchi – done properly, it is a thing of great beauty. I prefer mine to be light pillows of goodness with enough structure so they hold nicely. Like most things in life, once you get the hang of it, gnocchi are relatively quick and simple to make. The trick is to have the right type of potatoes cooked properly – not long enough and you’ll get a strange slightly textured product, too long and you’ll end up with a gluey mess.
- 1 kg red desiree, medium and all evenly sized is best
- 250 - 300 g plain flour
- 1 egg, whisked
- 50 g finely grated parmesan
- salt and white pepper
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.
Lay your potatoes out on a rack and place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C. They will take anywhere between 45 minutes to an hour to cook.
Check your potatoes after about 40 minutes by opening the oven and sticking in a skewer. You should feel no resistance. Remember this cooking time will vary according to the size of your potato so you will need to remain alert.
Once your potatoes are cooked, you need to start moving swiftly. Using a tea towel to protect you delicate hands, take the potatoes out one by one, cut them in half and use a spoon to scoop out the insides into a bowl, discarding the skins. (Actually, what I do with the skins at the restaurant is add a little knob of butter, a little salt and eat them…)
Once you have all the middles ready, put them through a ricer and lay them out onto a floured bench so they are in a nice flat mound. Sift ⅔ of the flour over the top, sprinkle with some salt and a good amount of white pepper, scatter over the parmesan and pour over the egg.
Use your hands to bring everything together and gently knead until it’s all incorporated into a soft dough, adding more flour if it feels a little too sticky. Be wary of overworking it.
Break off a quarter of the dough, leaving the remainder covered with a tea towel so it doesn’t get too cold. Roll it out into a log about 2 cm wide and then, using a butter knife, cut the log into 3 cm pieces, gently flicking each piece away from the log as you go. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Meanwhile, on your stove, have a large wide-based pan of salted water on the boil ready to cook the gnocchi. Cook the gnocchi in a couple of batches, use a spatula to pick them up off the bench and gently lower them into the water. Let them cook until they start to rise to the surface, using a slotted spoon to carefully scoop them out, straight into your sauce.
• This is when a ricer or a mouli really becomes essential. It is the most efficient and best way to turn your potatoes into the right consistency without overworking them.
• The amount of flour given in the recipe is enough for the dough, for flouring your bench and for spare. Be aware that it could be too much, as the amount is very variable depending on your potatoes.
Photography by Benito Martin. Styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Suresh Watson.
Pebble bowl from Mud. Plate 19cm from The Chef and The Cook. Potatoes from Moonacres Farm.