It’s pouring rain outside and I have the heater on full blast. This weather calls for comfort food and right now I couldn’t imagine a meal more comforting than gnocchi.
Little soft pillows of dough. Tiny cushion dumplings. Small potato clouds… how many ways can you describe gnocchi?
But let’s put textures aside for a second. Obviously the melt in the mouth quality of gnocchi is critical, but let’s not forget the other aspect of what makes gnocchi so great: it’s a wonderful vessel for sauce. A rich tomato sauce, a creamy mushroom sauce or a simple browned butter, the possibilities are endless.
One of my favourites, which is what is featured in this recipe is a butter sauce with thyme, lemon and garlic. The simplicity of these three ingredients is sensational, and coupled with a fluffy gnocchi, it’s perfection on a plate. Before we can get there however, it’s important to understand what makes a good gnocchi (and what doesn’t!)
A gnocchi is a dumpling of dough. The dough can be made with a variety of ingredients such as semolina, wheat flour, cornmeal, potatoes, cheese or pumpkin. Whatever the dough ingredients, the idea behind them is the same: you want the gnocchi to be as light as possible.
Little dough bricks are a no-no.
This means the the dough needs to be worked as little as possible. Overworking gnocchi dough makes it tough and dense. This recipe uses potatoes as the main ingredients and potatoes too can be overworked. When mashing the potatoes, this needs to be done as briskly as possible, enough to get a rid of the lumps but not too much that you end up with potato glue. Using a potato ricer is a great way to get smooth mash effienctly without overworking.
If you don’t have one of those, I find pushing the potato through a sieve works too.
The potatoes that are ideal for gnocchi are the varieties that are fluffy and dry, a good baking potato. Varieties such as Agria (which I have used) Ilam hardy and Red Rascal. When you have boiled and drained your potatoes, return them to the pot and place it back on the still hot (but turned off) element to evaporate any left over moisture. Let your potatoes cool before mashing.
Once you have mashed your potatoes, it’s time for the other ingredients which are salt, herbs, flour and an egg. The herbs and salt add flavour, the egg will bind the mix and the flour helps to add structure. How much flour to use however will depend on your potatoes, how many you have, how much water they have retained and the size of your egg. It’s best to add your flour in slowly, half a cup at a time, until you reach a soft ball of dough. Don’t add too much.
When your dough is mixed, portion it into 5 even pieces and roll them out into long sausages, about 1.5 cm thick. Do this carefully but quickly so again, you’re not overworking your dough.
Lay your sausages out on a lightly floured bench and use a sharp knife to cut each sausages into small 1 cm gnocchi pieces. Place these pieces on a floured plate or tray until ready to cook.
Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Once it’s boiling, place about 10 gnocchi at a time in the water. If you add too many, the water will cool and your gnocchi will overcook and become gluggy. The gnocchi should cook for about 3-4 minutes and rise to the top when done. Scoop them out with a slotted spoon and leave to drain in a colander while the rest cook.
Now that your gnocchi has been cooked, what sauce you choose is up to you.
I’ve chosen a butter sauce and as this is a simple sauce, you can add more flavour by frying the gnocchi a little in the butter and slightly caramelising them. I also added in chopped thyme, lemon zest and garlic.
- 750g peeled potatoes, chopped into 3cm pieces (a fluffy, baking variety)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 1/2- 1 3/4 cups plain flour
- 3 tablespoons chopped herbs (thyme, sage, parsley....etc)
- Fill a large pot with cold water and add in your potatoes. Bring to boil and cook the potatoes until a knife slips through very easily.
- Drain your potatoes and place them back on the element for a minute to evaporate any left over moisture. Leave them to cool.
- Mash the potatoes.
- In a bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, the egg, salt and herbs. Mix in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough ball is formed. Only add the amount of flour you need.
- Roll the dough into 5 sausages, 1.5 cm wide.
- Slice each sausage into pieces of about 1 cm, and place on a floured tray.
- Bring a pot of water to boil.
- Add in the gnocchi, in small increments and cook them until they float (about 3-4 minutes)
- Let them drain, then add the sauce of your choice.*
- * letting them cooked gnocchi sit in your chosen sauce for a while will add flavour to the gnocchi as they will absorb some of the sauce.