Gnocchi are surprisingly easy to make...once you've mastered them a few times that is. The texture and taste of homemade gnocchi is far superior to the pre-made stuff, hence the title: 'pillows of love'.
It is important to use floury potatoes like russets when making the gnocchi as the dough needs to be light and airy. I did try using Yukon potatoes once and the gnocchi was more like 'pillows of lead'.
I made the pesto using a very sharp, good quality kitchen knife instead of a mortar and pestle and I much preferred the results. The pesto takes about 15 minutes to chop in which time I'm totally intoxicated by the smell of the young, sweet basil (which has been sprouting enthusiastically from my window box).
What follows are step-by-step photos and instructions to help you make fresh pesto and homemade gnocchi. Bear in mind, that gnocchi is one of those hit and miss affairs rather like souffles. Their success is dependant on a whole range of factors including the type of potatoes used, the consistency of the mashed potato (don't over mash) and the quickness with which you work.
Here are some quick tips:
- Use russet potatoes
- Boil them with their skins on
- Remove the potatoes one by one from the boiled water and peel them straight away
- Quickly mash them with a fork or put them through a ricer while they are still hot. Don't over mash them.
- Let them cool for 10 minutes but no longer
- They should still be fluffy when you mix the egg and flour with them
Pesto Genovese Recipe
Adapted from 101 Cooks
1 large bunch of young sweet basil, stems removed
2 medium cloves of garlic
1-2 tbs of raw pine nuts
3/4 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan) or Pecorino
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Juice from a quarter of a lemon
A sharp, good-quality kitchen knife
Step 1: Chop the garlic with 1/3 of the basil leaves until the ingredients are loosely combined. Add more basil and continue to chop. Add the rest of the basil and chop until the garlic and basil leaves are quite fine.
Step 2: Add half of the pinenuts and chop. Add the rest of the pinenuts and continue to chop. Add the Parmesan and chop. Add the rest of the Parmesan and chop. Scrape and chop the ingredients to combine them well.
Step 3: Make sure that the ingredients are chopped so finely that they can be molded into a little cake. Place the pesto into a small bowl and add 1 tbs of good quality extra virgin olive oil. Cover and place in refrigerator until you're ready to use it.
Just prior to serving it with the gnocchi, place about 2 tbs of pesto into a large mixing bowl and add about 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice. Place sautéed gnocchi in the bowl and swish around to coat it. Serve immediately. *See below for gnocchi instructions.
Step-by-step Instructions for Making Gnocchi
2 large russet potatoes, halved
1 extra large organic egg, beaten
Scant cup of unbleached all-purpose flour
Sea salt (for potato water)
Place potatoes in a pot of cold, salted water. Boil for about 40 minutes or until soft. Remove potatoes one by one with a slotted spoon and quickly peel them. Mash the potatoes with a with a fork and ensure there are no lumps. I usually push the potatoes through a ricer. Just don't over mash them so they are too smooth. They should be light and fluffy. Let them cool for about 10 minutes.
Step 1: Shape potatoes into a mound with a well in the middle. Pour the egg into the well and sprinkle on 3/4 of the flour.
Step 2: Using a metal cutter, mix the flour, potato and egg by gently chopping and scraping the ingredients together. Chop, scrape, chop, scrape until the ingredients are roughly combined. The dought should be moist but not sticky. If they are too sticky then sprinkle on the remaining 1/4 of flour.
Step 3: Lightly flour the work surface and then gently roll the dough several times with a very light touch. You don't want to over mix the dough. It should feel light and airy.
Step 4: Place the dough on a clean surface and cut about 8 logs.
Step 5: On a floured surface, gently roll each log so that it's about 2cm (2/3 inch) thick.
Step 6: Using the cutter, cut off 1/2 inch or smaller pieces. Mark the gnocchi with a fork by lightly but quickly rolling them down the inside of the fork's prongs. This reduces the bulk of the gnocchi and makes little grooves to catch the sauce.
Step 7: Bring some salted water to the boil. Have a non-stick pan ready, on medium heat, with 1 tsp of butter next to the boiling water. Place the gnocchi in batches into the boiling water. Remove them with a slotted spoon as soon as they float to the top and then sauté them in the butter for about 50 seconds or until they brown slightly.
Place the browned gnocchi into the waiting bowl of pesto and gently swish around to coat. Serve immediately.
If you want a bit of a different take on the pesto, have a look at my macadamia nut pesto recipe.