People are afraid of making gnocchi, but I’m not sure why – perhaps because they can turn out stodgy, and because it does take a bit of trial and error to get them right. The trick is to keep the potatoes dry so that the gnocchi are fluffy and melt in the mouth: if you have to chew them, you’ve added too much egg or flour. You must also use the potato flesh while it is still hot – don’t leave it to cool too much first. If you don t want to serve the gnocchi with tomato sauce, try them with Mushroom ragù (recipe on page 182 of Cucina).
|6||large Maris Piper or King Edward potatoes (about 2 kg total weight)|
|100-200g||rock salt (enough to cover a roasting tin in a thick layer)|
|300-400g||plain or ‘00’ flour (you’ll have to judge how much to use as you’re making the gnocchi)|
|1 pinch||of freshly grated nutmeg|
|2||medium eggs, lightly beaten|
|1||quantity basic tomato sauce (see ingredients and method below)|
|1 handful||of fresh basil leaves|
|salt and freshly ground black pepper|
|1 handful||of freshly grated Parmesan, to serve|
|For the tomato sauce:|
|4 tbsp||olive oil, plus extra for drizzling|
|1||onion, finely chopped|
|2 x 400g||cans plum tomatoes|
|1||garlic clove, finely chopped|
|2 tsp||tomato purée|
|1||pinch of sugar|
|1||sprig of fresh rosemary|
Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6.
Wash the potatoes well, pat dry with a cloth, then pierce all over with a fork. Scatter a thick layer of rock salt into a roasting tin, sit the potatoes on top and bake in the oven for 1½-2 hours, or until soft.
While the potatoes are baking, make your tomato sauce.
Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Roughly squash the tomatoes with either your hands or a fork. Add them to the pan along with the garlic, tomato purée, sugar and rosemary. Lower the heat and simmer for 25-35 minutes, or until the sauce is thick and jam-like in consistency. Remove the rosemary sprig and finish with a drizzle of olive oil.
When the potatoes are ready, remove and allow to cool just enough to handle.
Gut the potatoes in half and scoop out the flesh. Sprinkle 300g of the flour on to a work surface. Pass the potato flesh through a potato ricer or sieve, then add to the flour. Season well and sprinkle with the nutmeg. Make a well in the centre, pour in the eggs and gradually work in the flour and potato to form a soft dough. Take care not to overwork the mixture.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Take a teaspoon of the mixture and drop it into the boiling water to check that it holds together without breaking up. You may need to add a little more flour and test again.
When you’re happy that the consistency is correct, cut the gnocchi dough into 6-8 pieces and roll into long sausage shapes about 2 cm in diameter. Cut each sausage into 3 cm lengths and roll each piece against the back of a fork.
Reduce the pan of water to a brisk simmer. To cook the gnocchi, drop in batches into the pan and cook for 2-2½ minutes, or until they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, lift out and place in a warmed serving dish. (Note: You can par cook the gnocchi in advance for use later: simply blanch in batches for 30 seconds, then remove and refresh in iced water. They can then be stored for up to 24 hours in the fridge on a lightly oiled plastic tray.)
Heat the tomato sauce and stir in the basil leaves. Pour the tomato sauce over the gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmesan before serving.