As I mentioned in a previous post, I've been looking forward to taking part in the various food blog events online. When I first saw that the theme of the latest HHDD is gnocchi, I was really excited. I have never made it before and though I'm not necessarily a big fan myself, M is. So what better excuse than to give it a go? Here then is my entry for Hay Hay, It's Donna Day #14 - Gnocchi di patate al pesto, which translates to potato dumplings with pesto.
For my recipe, I turned to this book, a trusted reference on Italian cooking from which I have enjoyed everything I've had the chance to make so far. I've been wanting to try his restaurant here in London but haven't had the chance yet. Hopefully that'll be a post on this blog sometime soon!
I have to confess that after having read through the recipe, I was concerned about the results given that I have never made fresh pasta before. As it turned out, the process was even slightly more involved than I expected. Rolling the dough into ropes and then shaping each individual nugget takes patience! Since I was battling against the clock to have something ready in time for dinner, I was probably less conscientious in making the gnocchi as uniform as it could be. Despite that, the results (while probably not the best looks-wise) were still yummy.
Would I make it again? Maybe, but I might skip the part requiring that each piece be shaped by hand. The pesto, however, is a keeper.
Potato dumplings with pesto
From Made in Italy by Giorgio Locatelli
1/2 recipe quantity of potato gnocchi dough (see recipe below)
handful of green beans
1 large potato, cut into about 1cm dice
knob of unsalted butter
6-7 tbsp pesto (see recipe below)
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
salt and pepper
Make the potato gnocchi as described below.
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until just soft. Split then in half lengthways.
Put the diced potato in a small pan of cold water with the butter. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until just beginning to soften. Take off the heat and leave in the cooking water to finish cooking and soften a little more.
Bring a large pan of water to the boil, salt it and put in the gnocchi. Keep stirring until they rise to the surface (a minute or so).
While the gnocchi are cooking, lift the potatoes out of their water with a slotted spoon and put into a sauté pan, together with the pesto and the beans, over the very lowest possible heat (if necessary, hold the pan above the hob, so that the pesto only slightly warms and keeps its flavour and colour).
Lift the gnocchi out of the cooking water carefully, using a slotted spoon or spider, and put them into the pesto.
Add the Parmesan and toss the gnocchi in the sauce very briefly to coat, adding a little of the cooking water if you think the sauce needs loosening - but don't leave the gnocchi on the heat for longer than a minute, or they will start to break up. Season if necessary and serve.
Potato gnocchi dough
1 kg very starchy potatoes
2 small eggs, lightly beaten
about 320g plain flour
pinch of salt
Leave the potatoes whole, still in their skins. Cover with cold water and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until soft (about 45 mins-1 hour depending on the size). Put the potatoes into a warm oven to dry.
While the potatoes are still hot, peel them and put them through a fine sieve. Put them in a bowl or on your work surface, make a well in the centre, then add the egg, a pinch of salt, and about 3/4 of the flour. Mix well and, as soon as the dough comes together, stop - only adding the rest of the flour if you really feel that you need it.
Dust your work surface lightly with flour, then take your dough and flatten it down with the palms of your hands into a rough square about 1.5cm thick.
With a knife, cut the dough into strips about 1.5cm wide. Dusting your hands with flour, roll each piece lightly until it is cylindrical.
Take 2 or 3 cylinders at a time, lay them next to each other, then cutting through them all at the same time, trim off the ends and cut the rest into pieces (1-1.5cm in width). Repeat with the rest of the cylinders, until you have lots of little nuggets of dough.
Lightly dusting with flour all the time, take a fork and push each piece of dough on to the prongs, so that it rolls itself up and is marked with lines. Try to make them all the same size so that they will all cook evenly. As you make each one, roll it on a tray dusted with flour.
Makes about 1kg
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons pine kernels, toasted
250g fresh basil leaves, picked
2 tbsp pecorino or Parmesan, grated
300ml extra-virgin olive oil
tiny pinch of salt
Either in a food processor with a sharp blade or using a pestle and mortar, start with the garlic and salt. Smash the garlic, then add the nuts and crush them, but try not to overwork them.
Drop in the basil leaves a few at a time and work them in as quickly as you can.
Then add your cheese and finaly the oil, until you have a bright green paste.
Makes one small jar