After the holidays I crave the simplest foods, so for Sunday lunch I made good old potato gnocchi. Just old floury potatoes and flour: 1 part of flour for every 5 parts potato, and absolutely nothing else, to keep them light and tasting of potato.I intensely dislike tough and chewy packaged gnocchi, the kind sometimes also served in restaurants even here in Italy. I think the culprit must be the addition of eggs, which of course wet the potato mixture so then you need to add more flour and that way you end up with the rubber bullet gnocchi I dislike so much.
This is what I did:
I placed 2 large old potatoes in cold
water unpeeled and cooked them gently till they were well softened,
taking care not to let them burst their skins as they need to stay dry,
to retain all their starch.
I peeled them while warm and enjoyed squishing them through a potato ricer (a food mill will also do). Today I did it twice to make the mixture extra smooth, letting the potato ribbons fall in a mound.
I sprinkled over most of the
flour and worked the flour and potatoes together into a soft dough that
held its shape when I started forming it into a long snake.
For light gnocchi I try to use the least amount of flour possible, but always enough so that the "snake" holds and does not break up. I made more than one "snake" and cut them up into even pieces, then I rolled each piece into a ball.I pressed each ball lightly on the back of a fork to indent the front and then gently rolled it up with the tip of my thumb to form the cowrie shell hollow on the back - both are designed to lighten the gnocchi and to give the sauce something to cling to.
Then I left them on a lightly floured cloth in a shallow woven basket while a large wide pot of water came to a boil.
Waiting for the water, I heated up a rich and much reduced tomato sauce. This I had made using a garlic infused olive oil (the sliced garlic I removed when it turned blonde), a small finely minced onion wilted in the oil till very soft and translucent, thick tomato passata (seedless and skin-free) from a jar, and a little dried oregano, all simmered on low heat for 45 minutes or more.
I salted the water heavily when it
came to a boil, then turned the heat down a little and cooked the
gnocchi in 3 or 4 batches. I love the way the gnocchi unhurriedly make
their way to the top when they are ready, they always make me think of
the moon landing astronauts, the way they labouriously and slowly
float to the surface to announce they are ready.
I let them float at the top for 30 seconds or so before removing them with a slotted spoon, letting them drain well then adding them to the waiting bowls which had a layer of hot tomato sauce just placed on the bottom. As I removed one batch from the gently boiling water, I added another, and as I added more gnocchi to the bowls I also added more hot tomato sauce, mixing everything together delicately.
No cheese at this stage
or the dish risks becoming a gooey mess. When all the gnocchi
are up and the bowls are full, a little extra sauce, a light dusting of
Pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano and take them to the table. Potato
gnocchi are tastier and less likely to be sticky if they are not
searingly hot, but do not let them wait to long seeing as you cooked
them in batches.
We loved the simple age-old familiar flavours,
the soft melting texture, just right for a cold winter's day. We
thought we'd have them again soon, perhaps adding some diced Guanciale
to the tomato sauce, once we are past our current post-holiday need for
the simplest possible dishes.
We loved the simple age-old familiar flavours, the soft melting texture, just right for a cold winter's day. We thought we'd have them again soon, perhaps adding some diced Guanciale to the tomato sauce, once we are past our current post-holiday need for the simplest possible dishes.