Thursday, 8 September 2011

Nonnas Gnocchi

I must confess, I really have been limiting my carbohydrate intake lately and getting on the band wagon of banning wheat, fructose and other nasties from my diet- but lets be honest, I come from an Italian family, and carbohydrates are part of living!

Gnocchi is one of those quintessential Italian staples. It's a simple meal and a cheap meal to prepare consisting of only three basic ingredients- potato, flour and egg. I've been told you can even make them with just flour and eggs. 


Having never attempted making them before, I enlisted the help of my nonna of course! As we were rolling the 'dough' she began telling me how as a child she would do this with her mother every week. She told me how it was normal for the women to come together and cook in every household. It would always be hands on and it wasn't optional. She began cooking at a very young age, whether she wanted to or not. It really got me thinking of how much things have changed over the years- and also made me realise why Italian women are such great cooks. They had no other option!


Nonna got straight in there and began boiling, peeling and milling potatoes, adding flour and egg, rolling the dough and cutting them into shape. Meanwhile I'm chasing her around the kitchen trying to get quick shots and write down what she was doing. Trust me it was no easy task. She was a woman on a mission- it was like she was born to make gnocchi- she just came alive. Food will do that to you though. I should know.

All credit to her though. She was very patient with me, especially whilst I was taste testing constantly... 

The final result were these gorgeous soft gnocchi, which my little nephew calls 'pillows'. How sweet- and probably the best description of the end result. They weren't tough or rubbery like those you buy from the supermarket. 

Nonnas 4 top tips for the perfect gnocchi

1. Boil potatoes with their skins on on else they will absorb too much water
2. Mill/mash the potatoes when they are warm as this will ensure a smoother result
3. Don't insist on following a recipe. If the potatoes are holding more water than usual, you will need to add more flour, and vice versa. Always add ingredients by feel
4. Don't overwork the dough. If you do they will be tough when cooked (similar theory to scones)

So, as you may too have realised, even though they may appear to be a very simple staple, there are certainly tricks of the trade to ensure unforgettable gnocchi! Lucky for me, I have a nonna to drop in on. 

For now anyways, carbs are on the menu- and the healthier eating can continue again tomorrow.

Get This
1.2kg potatoes, skin on
600-800g plain flour
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook Now
Wash and scrub the potatoes well. Add to a pot of salted water and bring to the boil. Cook over medium heat for about 30minutes or until cooked through. While warm peel the potatoes and use a vegetable miller to mill them (or a potato ricer or masher).

Add flour, salt and pepper to the potato and work it all together with your hands. Add the egg and continue to work the flour in. The dough should be a little sticky to touch, but not so that it sticks to your hands constantly. Set dough aside in a bowl.

Sprinkle flour over your working area. Cut a small ball of dough and roll out into a long even log shape with your fingers. With a knife cut the dough into segments on a diagonal angle. Dust gnocchi with extra flour to prevent them sticking and transport to a tea towel to allow to dry. Allow at least 30 minutes.

To cook- bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Add gnocchi in about 4 separate batches. When they float to the top you know they are cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Simply toss the cooked 'pillows' through a tomato sugo, or a burro e salvia (butter and sage) sauce. Heaven. 
Serves 4 as a main