A while ago now we visited some friends for lunch and were served the most delicious main course of gnocchi with slow cooked lamb ragu. It was truly sensational. Soft, pillowy mouthfuls of gnocchi, with an incredibly rich, tender, unctuous ragu. The Perky Kebab and I haven’t stopped talking about it since.
On enquiry about the gnocchi, I was informed they were home made. Home made gnocchi?? I had never even considered something so daring when you can buy lovely ready-made packets from the supermarket. But the homemade version was infinitely better, and following assurances that they were sooo easy to make, I decided to dive into the world of gnocchi making.
It’s fair to say I was a little suspicious of the task ahead. Said friend also creates Michelin star worthy dishes as standard for dinner parties. So saying that gnocchi was easy isn’t surprising – it probably is compared with some of the things he makes. But I was not to be deterred – light, fluffy gnocchi would be mine!
After a bit of umming and ahing, I decided to use Angela Hartnett’s recipe. She is, after all, supposed to be a queen of Italian cooking. And what a result! It turns out they really are easy.
Aside from the baking of the potatoes, the whole process only took me about 20 minutes and the darling little dumplings only take a couple of minutes to cook. Well, I say little dumplings. But in my case I mean giant dumplings. I didn’t quite get the hang of the sizing and shaping, so whilst you could still fit them in your mouth, it was a challenge with a couple. So try for smaller than the ones in my pictures!
And the recipe wouldn’t be complete without the lamb ragu topping, which will follow in the next post!
Adapted from Angela Hartnett’s recipe
4 large baking potatoes (Hartnett recommends King Edwards)
200-300g plain flour
1 large egg
a small pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
1. Preheat the oven to 200°c/180°c fan/Gas 6. Wash and dry the potatoes, pierce all over with a fork and place in the oven for 1.5 – 2 hours until soft in the middle. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle.
2. Halve the potatoes and scoop out the flesh. Pass through a potato ricer or seive. Whilst the potato is still hot, and working on your kitchen surface, add the 200g of the flour, the nutmeg, salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre and add the egg.
3. Pulling the dry ingredients into the centre, work everything together and knead gently to form into a round smooth-ish ball of dough. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour. Be careful not to overwork the dough as this makes the gnocchi tough.
4. Place a big pan of salted water on the hob and bring to the boil. Pull off a small amount of dough and place in the water as a test. It should hold together. If it breaks up, add a bit more flour to your dough and knead again briefly to incorporate.
5. Divide your dough into 4 and roll each ball into a long, thin sausage (about 1.5cm wide). Cut into bite-size pieces. They will be a little sticky so it’s best to place them on a greased baking sheet as you go to prevent them from sticking to the work surface.
6. At this point you can roll each piece against a fork to make ridges – this helps the sauce to stick to them, however I made a real mess of this so gave up!
7. When you’re ready to cook your gnocchi, make sure your pan of water is bubbling happily and cook them in batches – too many in one go and the water cools too much. They take 2-3 minutes, but you’ll know when they’re done as they float to the surface. Remove using a slotted spoon and transfer to a warm plate in the oven whilst you cook the rest.
8. Serve with some lamb ragu, or simply some parmesan, butter and sage, or anything else you fancy!
You can par-cook the gnocchi and keep in the fridge for 24 hours. Cook in the boiling water for 30 seconds, cool down in cold water, then store in a bowl greased with a little oil. The next day, take from the fridge about 30 minutes before you want to eat them and refresh in boiling water for 2 minutes or until they float to the top.