Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gnocchi Recipe

Gnocchi (pronouced as "no-kee") are thick, soft dumplings made from potato, flour and egg. Its a versatile Italian dish which you can customise to your liking. Think of them as pasta and coat them in your favourite sauces - tomato, pesto, etc. However, my all time fav has to be still good old cream and cheese.

I have tried Gnocchi twice - once at Peperoni Pizzeria near Great world city and Basilico in the Regent Hotel. The first time I ate it at Peperoni Pizzeria I was overwhelmed (in a mildly bad way...) as it was too cloying and rich. That said, it was a very filling dish and can be shared easily by a group of 6. However, I absolutely fell in love this dish when I tried it at Basilico. It was cooked in pesto cream sauce and the gnoochi was slightly chewy (I really like chewy food...)

That memorable experience has prompted me to try making gnocchi at home. It's an easy dish - all you need are potatoes, flour and egg yolk. Here are top 10 key notes/findings you should know before making your very own gnocchi:

1. More potato, less flour: Gnocchi are supposed to be light and fluffy so don't wear them down with flour. Use as little as possible and the key is using "just-enough" to make the potato stick without breaking apart when cooking

2. Use flour with low gluten. I used cake flour but I've seen people using Italian OO flour. Plain flour works too

3. You don't need fancy equipment to mash the cooked potatoes. Mash the potatoes through a sieve you get finely textured potatoes

4. Use egg yolk, not whole eggs: When cooked, egg whites coagulate and make the gnocchi tougher than they should be. The ultimate goal is to avoid egg all together - I have seen people making gnocchi successfully with just flour and potato

5. Bake your potatoes, avoid boiling them: Boiling potatoes causes the potatoes to absorb water and that means you will need more flour later on to absorb the extra moisture. More flour = tougher gnocchi = no no

6. Avoid overworking the potato-flour dough: You don't want tough gnocchi so gather everything up at one go and knead gently

7. Don't salt the cooking water: Typically you cook pasta in salted water but in the case with gnocchi, the salt will cause the potato starch to become sticky, and you'll end up with a mushy product (refer)

8. Not a fan of potato? Use pumpkin, squash or sweet potato! Remember to adjust the amount of flour used - you want a dough that is barely sticky

9. Gnocchi is cooked when they float to the surface of the boiling water

10. Be creative in your gnocchi design! Roll the dough into small balls and use the back of the fork to imprint lines on the gnocchi. That way, the gnocchi can catch more sauce when served. Otherwise, keep things simple and keep them as small round dumplings

(serves 2)


For gnocchi
4 potatoes (I used US Russet, you can use any variety of potato but choose one with little water content)
1 egg yolk
60g cake flour

For sauce
200ml cream (I used diary whipping cream)
3 cloves fresh minced garlic
20g unsalted butter
Cheese (Any brand to your liking)
Pepper and salt to taste
1-2 tbsp of leftover pasta water (remaining water from boiling gnocchi)

1. Wash potatoes and poke small holes all over using a fork. This will help the potatoes to cook faster. Bake in pre-heated oven at 180 degrees for 1h. The potatoes are ready when you can pierce through them easily with a fork.

2. Remove potato skin when potatoes are still hot (Be careful not to burn yourself!). Mash potatoes roughly using a fork in a bowl. This will help to release the steam/water content in the potatoes. Recall tip 5.

3. Press potatoes through sieve. Add in flour and egg yolk and mix till dough is formed.

4. Divide dough into 3 equal portions and roll each portion into a log with diameter of about 1 cm. Cut into smaller pieces and roll each piece into a rough ball.

5. Bring to boil a saucepan of water and boil gnocchi. They are ready when they float to the surface of the boiling water. Drain, leave aside and prepare sauce.

6. In heated saucepan, melt butter and fry garlic till fragrant. Add in cream and bring to boil. Add in cheese. Finally, add in pepper and salt to taste. If you find the sauce too thin, add in 1-2 tbsp of leftover pasta water (remaining water from boiling gnocchi) or some flour. Bring pan off fire and stir in gnocchi. Serve with chopped parsley or a dash of black pepper.


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