Spud Sunday: Curious Gnocchi

Oh dear.

In my capacity as a self-confessed potato anorak, I’m not entirely sure that I should admit to the following, but I see that I am going to have to come clean and reveal to the world (or to you lot, at least) the embarrassing truth.

The fact of the matter is that, until this weekend, I’d never, ever made gnocchi.

[cue momentary pause while this information sinks in]

As far as my potato repertoire went, lack of gnocchi experience had been sitting squarely in the glaring omissions category for the longest time. There was really nothing to do but face the fact and give these Italian potato dumplings a much belated whirl. And it seemed like the least I could do to make up for their much-delayed debut was to see to it that they would be washed down with some proper Italian wines. Following our most enjoyable French excursion, the guys at Curious Wines were happy to oblige with recommendations and samples for same. Things were looking good for the gnocchi launch.

Gnocchi

There you are my little dumpling

So it was, after much research, I set to my dumpling task and, while I can see that much practice will be needed, my inaugural batch were happily far from the stodgy affairs that I’ve sometimes been served in the name of gnocchi. In fact, they were a positive delight, served simply with a garlic cream sauce and greens from the garden, while curious Italian wines were dutifully quaffed.

Curious Italian Wines

Curious white and curious red

The white, Dievole Dievolino Bianco Malvasia, was a very pleasant little number, smooth and with a little citrusy tang, which went down a treat with the gnocchi and made for a very happy first date. The red, Dievole Dievolino Rosso Sangiovese, with its healthy tannin hit, was a cracker which warmed up beautifully and for which all present declared immediate and undying love. It was, however, a little bit much for the delicate gnocchi in their creamy cradle and they were not quite ready for what was a more robust relationship. Still, no shame in that. Someday, the gnocchi will move on to meatier sauces and, when that happens, that lovely red will be ready and waiting.

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First Timer’s Gnocchi

In the matter of gnocchi, it seems that the first thing you require is an Italian grandparent. Not being in possession of same, I instead consulted numerous sources with Italian grandparent credentials, including 101 Cookbooks, Memorie di Angelina and Foraging Otaku. While gnocchi are made from a simple mixture of mashed potatoes, flour and (optionally) some egg, Italian grannies also know that:

  • You need to keep the mash as dry as possible and, for that reason, floury spuds are preferred. I’ve seen Russet potatoes recommended and, here in Ireland, where floury spuds are the norm, the ubiquitous Rooster variety is probably a good choice.
  • Using some egg in the mix makes things easier to bind and is recommended for beginner gnocchi-makers.
  • A light touch is needed when handling the dough to avoid any gumminess.
  • It takes practice, practice, practice…
You’ll need:
  • 500g potato, preferably floury
  • 125g plain flour (you may need slightly more or less than this amount)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
The Steps:
  • Scrub the potatoes and boil or steam them in their skins until tender. Depending on the size of the individual spuds, that could take anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes.
  • Drain the potatoes, then place a cloth or tea towel over the pot and allow to sit for about 10 minutes.
  • Peel the potatoes and either put them through a potato ricer, if you’ve got one, or mash gently in a large bowl using a fork or masher.
  • Drizzle the beaten egg over the mash, add about 100g of the flour and season with some salt and pepper. Mix and bring together as a dough using a wooden spoon or spatula, adding more flour if the mixture is too damp – you want a dough that’s soft and pliable but not sticky.
  • Knead the dough briefly on a lightly floured surface.
  • Break off pieces of the dough and roll into logs around the thickness of your thumb. Then cut the logs into pieces around 2cm long and (using plenty of flour so that the pieces don’t stick) press each piece against the inside of a fork, so that it forms little ridges on one side.
  • Set the pieces aside on a floured plate or board until ready to cook.
  • To cook, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches of around 20 or so. For each batch, drop the pieces into the boiling water and wait until shortly after they float back up to the top of the pot (this should only take a couple of minutes). Then remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a bowl.
  • Dress your gnocchi with garlic cream sauce (below) or with whatever other sauce takes your fancy.
The Variations:
  • You can, of course, add other flavourings to the basic gnocchi mixture to suit whatever kind of sauce you’re planning on serving it with. You could also incorporate a little grated parmesan if you felt so inclined.
The Results:
  • This makes around 4 dinner portions of gnocchi.
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Sage & Garlic Cream Sauce

This really isn’t too much more than a simple white sauce with cream substituted for some of the milk and with some added garlic, parmesan and sage.

For the sauce:
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • 1 tblsp plain flour
  • 100ml milk
  • 250ml cream
  • 2-3 tblsp grated parmesan
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sage garnish:
  • 1 tblsp butter
  • 15-20 fresh sage leaves (or more, if your sage leaves are very small)
The Steps:
  • To prepare the sage leaves, place a small frying pan over a medium heat. When heated, add 1 tblsp butter, allowing it to melt. Add the sage leaves and stir and fry for 3-4 minutes, until they start to go brown and crispy. Remove the leaves from the pan onto a piece of kitchen paper to soak up the excess butter, then crumble the fried leaves into a small bowl and set aside.
  • To start the sauce, place a large pan over a medium heat. When heated, add 2 tblsp butter, allowing it to melt.
  • Add the garlic and stir and fry for about a minute.
  • Add the flour to form a paste (roux). Stir continuously and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Very gradually, start adding the milk, stirring continuously and making sure it’s well combined.
  • Once the milk is incorporated, continue by gradually adding in the cream, still stirring.
  • Allow the mixture to come to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the parmesan and stir to combine. Check and add salt to taste (I added about 0.5 tsp) plus a couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Add the lemon juice and stir to mix.
  • The sauce is fairly thick, thin to your desired consistency by adding water if you like.
  • Pour over gnocchi or other pasta and sprinkle with the fried sage leaves.
The Variations:
  • Add extra parmesan or some cheddar if you feel like having a cheesier sauce.
The Results:
  • Sauce for about 4 portions of gnocchi or other pasta.
Comments
  • for a gnocchi newbie that gnocchi looks like a work of art – perfection in form and taste I’m sure. The accompanying sauce sounds stupendous as does the wine selection. what an incredible meal,

  • Nice job. I have yet to try to make gnocchi myself. Nervous, maybe. For your first time, I applaud you for a job well done. Hopefully mine can turn out the same as your when I do finally attempt it.

  • OysterCulture: well, that was one of the better looking ones! In truth there were plenty of misshapen little bundles too, but they all tasted good, though :)

    jenn: I guess it’s something that you just have to try out for yourself but it’s definitely worth giving it a go

  • Excellent gnocchi recipe! I love the sage garnish.

  • I have made gnocchi many times. They key is a dry potato, so if you boil potatoes (versus bake), let them sit and air dry a bit after you pour the water off. I have a cookbook Trattoria Cooking by Biba Caggiano and she has a lovely sauce with fontina cheese (kinda hard to locate in rural areas) and parsley and garlic that is really lovely. I find tomato sauce over-powers the lovely potato taste.

  • Wow, I don’t think I’d have the patience to make my own gnocchi! Yours looks really good though.

  • I’ve never made gnocchi either. I live in fear of it, but I’m determined to try it some day. Yours looks great!

  • Thanks for this recipe! I haven’t made gnocchi before so it’s great to have a first timer’s version :)

  • I love making & eating gnocchis!!!

    Looks very yummie!

    You did an excellent job!

  • Delighted the wines proved such a hit Spud, recipe looks delish, can’t wait to try :)

  • Natasha: thanks – I have some sage growing here and I actually don’t use it that much, so this was a great opportunity to do so

    kerryfelter: thanks for dropping by and for the gnocchi tips – a garlic, fontina and parsley sauce sounds rather yum!

    Cookie: welcome & thanks! In the end, they actually took less effort than I’d imagined and it was quite a pleasant surprise.

    lisaiscooking: I know how you feel and now I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to trying!

    Hillary: thanks and good luck with your own gnocchi endeavours :)

    Sophie: thanks – I think I’ll be making these regularly from now on

    Michael: was only too delighted to have an excuse to try more curious wines!

  • I could not contain the startled gasp at your confession. 8-P

    I now have gnocchi on the brain after seeing Forager’s post and then yours! How can such a simple dish be so intimidating to me? No longer! Thank you for the ‘First Timers’ tips, especially with regard to potato type. I am pleased to say that I have that essential tool – a ricer – already (and, of course, two functional hands!) A good start, I think. 8-)

  • Well, I’m glad you finally got around to the gnocchi. I’ve been tapping my foot for months and months waiting for you to fill in that blank in your spud repertoire! ;) They turned out beautifully!

  • Gnocchi Neo-Phyte. Frankly I had always suspected this about you. Naturally your first attempt looks to be right on the money. So now you can raise your head high and join the ranks of the rest of decent society! GREG

  • I’m so happy to be back! I’ve missed your daily “potato soaps”… and thought of you when I purchased a book on fries. Your gnocchi look good… great job.

  • Wow! Beautiful gnocchi for a first timer! I tried once and wasn’t happy with the results so I must try yours! And fabulous with that garlic cream sauce! Yummy!

  • […] Dievolino bottles fell victim to the tempting charms of luscious, hand-made gnocchi over at The Daily Spud: The white, Dievole Dievolino Bianco Malvasia, was a very pleasant little number, smooth and with a […]

  • Your first attempt worked out so well!
    And I like so much the idea of fried sage leaves!

  • Tangled Noodle: a shocking admission, I know, but best to say it now and avert any future cover-up scandals…

    Jenni: thanks and you can rest your tapping feet now, unless you are also tapping your feet while listening to Adam from AI, in which case there’s no reason to stop :)

    Sippity Sup: I just want to know what decent society has been doing without me all this time!

    lisha: hey there stranger, glad to have you back :) As for a book on fries – I’m intrigued…

    Jamie: well I’ll certainly be trying them again, that’s for sure :)

    History of Greek Food: thanks – I was surprised but very pleased with the results!

  • […] would have had homemade gnocchi with a garlic cream and sage sauce, washed down with some lovely […]

  • That is quite an impressive gnocchi specimen for a 1st timer! How did you get such perfect grooves? I only started making gnocchi last year and I can never roll it on my fork properly to get those kind of groove marks. Maybe I need buy one of those gnocchi rolling boards. To keep my potatoes really dry I bake them on a bed of kosher salt (Michael Chiarello’s recipe). And your garlic cream sauce sounds divine, I’ve only ever made gnocchi with a marinara sauce (hubby is from Long Island and loves red sauce).

  • Well hello there Phyllis and welcome! I will fess up to the fact that the gnocchi didn’t all come out looking like this one and a lot of flour had to be applied to the fork and to my hands to keep the things from sticking. Thanks for the tip on baking the spuds (what I particularly like about that idea is that I get to have nice baked potato skins too – I guess I could even use those to serve the gnocchi – now I’m liking that idea a lot…)

  • Writing this very much as a stuff’d puppy who didn’t know when to stop eating some great tasting gnocchi. Needless to say your great photo of the gnocchi bore no resemblance to my aesthetically challenged attempt, but the difference in taste and texture between this and any I’ve tried in restaurants before … wow! Nice one Spud! Went a different route on the sauce side though. I had it with a wild mushroom sauce (er, sorry, store bought) washed down with a gorgeous shiraz.

  • Oh beautiful gnocchi, how fair you are…a poetic meal indeed!

  • Rufus: Congratulations! And trust me, many of my gnocchi were aesthetically challenged too, but I did have exactly the same reaction on eating them – a world of difference between those I’d made and what I’ve tried previously in restaurants.

    Chef E: ah, do I feel a bit of your poetry coming on?

  • […] here’s the original post, with the original recipe […]

  • […] just a mashed potato dough. You’ve made gnocchi, you can make […]

  • […] and sorrel sauce on the basis that (a) I rather fancied I could cook a piece of salmon and (b) gnocchi were at least somewhat familiar territory. I soon figured out that my attempted re-creation would […]

  • I must try my hand at these as Jane loves Italian food:)

  • Hey Aidan, you must let me know how you get on if you do try these out (or if not, I’m sure Jane will let me know anyway :) )

  • […] oven baked chips or fried potato cakes, mix it with mashed potato, stir it through a plate of gnocchi, swirl it into a bowl of potato soup, dollop it onto a baked spud, or serve alongside some steamed […]

  • […] mille). Perhaps they’re out to change my spudly ways (after all, with the noble exception of gnocchi, Italians don’t seem to go in much for the whole potatoes thing). Or maybe they wondered if I […]

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