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.
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….