When I first started making gnocchi a few years ago, they always seemed to come out really dense and heavy. So, I did a spot of internet research and have tweaked my method as I’ve gone along.
The recipe here is the resulting recipe I use for plain potato gnocchi, although you could add some herbs or any other flavourings that take your fancy.
Personally, I don’t think making your own gnocchi is that much of a faff. Admittedly, it would be a lot quicker to get them out of a packet, but a bit of forward planning minimises the hassle. For instance, what I tend to do is bake and rice my potatoes the night before and leave them in the fridge, ready to make into dough the next evening.
The reason I bake my potatoes, rather than boil them, is that it keeps them as dry as possible (which is what you want). It’s also easier to leave a few spuds baking in the oven than to keep an eye on a boiling pan of them. Also, I rice my potatoes rather than mash them as this allows more moisture to evaporate from the potatoes and means they don’t get overworked. If you’re reading this and thinking “bloody hell, this woman is really overthinking her potato preparation methods”, then you are probably right, and you may just want to use some gnocchi from a packet for this recipe…
For the gnocchi (this makes about sixty gnocchi- enough to feed three people, or two with a couple of lunch portions left over):
- Three smallish to medium baking potatoes
- Two eggs, beaten
- ‘00’ grade pasta flour
For the sauce:
- About 200g of cherry or baby plum tomatoes
- Olive oil
- About 200g Spinach (I use frozen, ready chopped spinach because it’s cheap and I usually have it in the freezer but fresh would be good)
- A handful or two of fresh basil
- Three garlic cloves, crushed
- 100g feta
To make the gnocchi:
Prick your potatoes all over with a fork and put them on the middle shelf of the oven at gas mark 6 (200⁰C) for about an hour to an hour and a half, or until a knife slides into the centre of them easily. Cut them in half when you take them out of the oven, and when they’re just about cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides and put them through a potato ricer into a bowl. There’s no need to waste the skins- keep them in the fridge to be picked at with a squidge of barbeque sauce from a bottle when you’re peckish. (Nigella-esque late night snacking in a black satin dressing gown is optional, but encouraged.)
As I tend to bake my potatoes ahead of making gnocchi, I cover the riced potato in cling film and leave it in the fridge. If you’re doing this, I recommend getting the potato out shortly before making your dough to warm up slightly, unless you don’t mind getting cold hands.
If you’re making your gnocchi the same day, leave the potato to cool down.
Add the two beaten eggs to the riced potato, folding the eggs into the mixture with a spatula.
Now, start to add your flour, gently squelching the ingredients together with clean hands. I honestly don’t know how much flour you’ll need to add- I’ve never measured it. All you need to know is that you need to add just enough until you have a good workable dough consistency. It’s helpful here to have someone tipping the flour in for you, as the dough will make your hands very messy. I don’t usually have a spare pair of hands for this bit and my bag of flour therefore ends up covered in doughy, potato-y paw prints.
Once you’ve got your dough, divide it into four portions and roll each portion out into a long sausage shape. When you’ve got a sausage which is about an inch thick and about 12 inches long, cut it into small pieces. Lay your gnocchi out on a plate or baking sheet which has been brushed with a thin layer of oil, then lightly press a fork onto the top of each one, flattening them slightly.
To make the rest:
Cut your tomatoes in half and put them in a baking dish or tin. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. I often sprinkle on some fennel seeds too, but then again I sprinkle fennel seeds on bloody everything. Use your hands to coat the tomatoes in oil and lay them out cut side up in the dish. Roast in the oven at gas mark 5 (190⁰C) for about 45 minutes. If you’re baking your potatoes at the same time, you could just put everything in at gas mark 5 and do the potatoes for longer, adding the tomatoes later on. I’ll leave you to work out the logistics.
Put a big pan of water on to boil.
Whizz your basil in a food processor or finely chop it. If you’re using fresh spinach, then whizz/ chop that too.
In another pan, heat a small glug of olive oil and add the garlic. Fry for a few minutes before adding the spinach and basil and stirring everything together. Allow to warm through thoroughly before crumbling in the feta. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Once your other pan of water has come to the boil and while your spinach is cooking, add the gnocchi to the pan in batches to cook (I usually do about fifteen at a time). When all the gnocchi in the pan have floated to the top of the water, remove them with a slotted spoon.
Divide the gnocchi between bowls, top with the spinach sauce and roasted tomatoes and serve.