The Gnocci Gnostic

In case you were wondering, the dictionary has the following definition of Gnostic:

         “of or relating to knowledge, esp. esoteric mystical knowledge”

Now I know that normally speaking, gnocci would not be considered particularly esoteric or mystical, but I’ve always believed that making gnocci from scratch was exclusively for aged Italian nonnas, experienced chefs, or factories with huge machinery. Being none of those things, I’ve suffered the shop-bought stuff for years, first the gluteny jobs and now the much less satisfactory gluten free items.

But no longer. I have cracked the Hidden Knowledge of the Italian Nonna. Perhaps it’s something to do with age, or turning into a Grumpy Old Woman… Anyway I have just polished off the most delicious plateful, and feel compelled to share.

 Here we go. This recipe serves 4 generously unless one of them is exceptionally greedy.

There are 4 ingredients: 700g (1 ½lbs) floury potatoes, plain (all purpose) flour (the normal kind or GF, whatever you prefer), 1 large egg, generous pinch of salt.

Peel and cut up the potatoes, boil till they break apart when you stick a knife in. Drain immediately and thoroughly, and set aside till completely cool. When they’re cool, put them through a potato ricer, or mash them very thoroughly. Set a big pot of water to boil on the stove. Heap the mash up on a floured board, make a well in the centre, add the egg and the pinch of salt, and a half cupful of flour to start with. Bring it all together and knead gently. It’ll be desperately sticky and will adhere to your hands like chewing gum to the bottom of a shoe. Add more flour. Knead some more, add more flour, knead some more. Repeat until the dough is just dry enough that it doesn’t stick to everything and you can put it down again once you’ve picked it up. Pinch off a piece the size of the top joint of your thumb. Roll into a ball, flatten slightly, and drop into the boiling water. If it holds together and rises to the surface after a minute or two, you’re done. If it falls apart, add more flour, knead, and try again. There was no point in taking photos at this stage. It looks revolting and everything is white and blobby.

Cut the dough into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about as thick as a man’s thumb. Cut into 8 sections. Take each section and roll into a ball. Rock the tines of a fork across the top surface to make grooves (to hold the sauce; it will slide off smooth gnocci). Put the gnocci into a colander and tip gently into the pot of boiling water. Stir gently, just once. Wait. When all have risen to the surface, wait another minute, then drain, and serve promptly, dolloped with your favourite sauce. We had beef & tomato sauce with fennel and chilli.

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Divided potato dough. How would YOU have made it look interesting…?

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Roll it into ropes. It helps if your hands are floured.

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This shows the sort of size the little pieces should be. Make them too big and they won’t cook at the same rate as smaller ones.

Screen shot 2014-10-27 at 2.19.40 PM

Groovy, baby!

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Totally gratuitous meat sauce shot…

The gnocci taste fresh and potatoey, not starchy and strange like the ready made ones. They’re tender but not mushy. It’s fiddly, but I reckon it’s totally worth the fiddling about.

Excuse me, I need a large nap. And I may not eat again for another few days, if then….

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24 thoughts on “The Gnocci Gnostic

  1. EllaDee says:

    Ooh this looks SO good. I have all the necessaries to make gnocci except the Nonna confidence to have a go! I’m sure I will one day and I’m that much closer thanks to you tutorial and tempting photo… Since blogging I’ve found the inspiration & info that’s enabled me to tackle a few foodie hurdles.
    I’m guessing the amount you made would be just sufficient for a hungry G.O. and myself, they just look too wonderful 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s truly, incredibly easy, and I’m not at sure why I let myself believe in the mystique of it all for so long. Do you make bread? It’s easier than that. Do you make pastry? It’s MUCH easier than that! Just add flour till it stops being sticky. And those two big bowls of gnocci and sauce were just half the quantity it makes, so you and the G.O. could save some for another day, like me, or make utter porkers of yourselves!

      • EllaDee says:

        I make bread but not yet pastry… that damned mystique keeping getting in my way. Interesting that the fresh gnocchi will keep for next day, as
        the bought in my experience is not good for that.
        But I doubt I’d have the restraint to wait & find out!

      • katechiconi says:

        I shall do that demanding research for you… But I’m pretty sure that fresh and uncooked it’ll hold for a day in the fridge.

  2. Looks wonderful!
    You are a try gnocci gnostic!
    Esther

  3. Great post… thank you for reminding me about gnocci… haven’t made it for years and I really don’t like the shop-bought stuff.

    • katechiconi says:

      No, it’s dry and hard and tastes rather odd. These just taste beautifully of potato and are as light as little pillows. Good job we only ate half – I’m working out what sauce to use on tomorrow’s helping!

      • Did you store the uneaten half cooked or uncooked? I’ve always thought of it as something to make and eat straight away.

      • katechiconi says:

        The unused portion is sitting uncooked on a plate in the fridge. I’m going to see if it survives the night or gets nasty – it’s only mashed potato, flour and egg, so there’s not a lot that can go wrong. It may dry out a little, but I don’t think the flavour will be greatly affected. I’ll let you know!

  4. tialys says:

    This looks like a job for Mr. T. as he is the breadmaker in our house and it looks like there’s a fair bit of kneading to be done! I like the idea of gnocci but, as you say, the shop bought ones tend to be very doughy and heavy so I don’t bother with it much any more.

    • katechiconi says:

      Less heavy kneading than fairly gentle combining of ingredients. The kneading is to distributed the flour rather than develop any gluten in the mixture, so you don’t need to be brutal! But by all means get Mr T onto it, and avoid the associated potatoey paws that come with the job…

  5. lovelucie1 says:

    I think I might just give these a go!

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks for taking the mystery out of gnocci! Brittany orders it at Italian restaurants, so I will have to surprise her with homemade!

    • katechiconi says:

      My husband’s family is originally Italian, so I felt I had to step up and take on the Nonna mantle – his sisters are not so very interested in cooking. I think you’ll be pleased and surprised at how little fuss it is – I was. I mean, anyone can boil and mash potatoes, and then play mudpies with it!

  7. I have made gnocchi at home and it tasted fab, but the uncooked balls wanted to stick to the non-stick sheet, the tea towel and each other before they got in the hot water. (Maybe they knew what was coming and were clinging together in fear.) I also seemed to have a knack of splashing myself with hot water as I dropped them in. I think I needed to roll them in semolina flour to stop the sticking. Any tips?

    • katechiconi says:

      Dust your hands with flour when you roll the balls, and maybe use a tad more flour in the mix; there’s no rule about how much to use and if they need more than your recipe, use it. I get over the splashing bit by putting them in the colander (or a sieve would do) and dipping that into the hot water before gently easing it out from under them. You could let them stand a little while before you cook them; they will ‘crust’ a tiny bit as the surface dries out slightly, and that will make them easier to handle.

  8. This looks fabulous! No potatoes allowed in this house, but I’d be sorely tempted to give in if you banged a plate of those babies down in front of me 🙂

  9. Kirsten says:

    My mum had a go at making gf gnocchi with potato flour (as well as potatoes, obviously). They were very . . . er . . . gluey. Not sure what happened. We need to have another go I think. Sweet potato does work, I’ve seen several recipes for it 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Mindful of exactly that potential issue, I was careful to pick a commercial plain flour blend that contained no potato, but instead, a high percentage of rice flour. I didn’t have any gluey problems at all. Maybe the slight grittiness of rice flour helped to avoid the mixture getting claggy. I’m thinking a smaller batch of sweet potato gnocci later this week, and I may try freezing some of them to see how the frozen ones perform.

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