hen I was little every time something went wrong at school (mind you, never serious stuff but mainly children things , as I was a very clever little girl of course...) my mother suggested to make gnocchi for me. School was only in the morning and at 1 o'clock we were all out already. Poor parents who had to do something with us for the rest of the day....children labour in the kitchen was a good option!
Gnocchi have some comforting sense; perhaps it is because you know that you have to be gentle when you handle them as they are soft and small. I loved the act of ridging them with the tip of a giant fork which I could barely manoeuvre from my 8 years old height (which hasn't changed much since...). You have to exercise a gentle pressure and then push the potato piece away from you. It is a very relaxing movement. And the result is below.
Note: how to pronounce gnocchi correctly. Imagine it is written as neokee, and you probably
get to the most accurate pronunciation you can hope for!
As I thought they are really fun to make, I asked my cooking students to give it a go last week. We had them with hand-made pesto, which is a totally different experience from that green stuff you get in jars!
For 80 gnocchi
> 2kg old potatoes (this is important. The potatoes need to be old because the skin needs to be quite thick. If you have no clue of what old potatoes look like, you can go for those which seem quite been picked out of the ground as often still covered in mud to give the effect of naturalness!); 2 eggs; 400g flour
> Cook the potatoes with their skin on in water to cover them well (adding probably 2 tbsp salt) until very soft.
> When they are soft, peel them (I must apologise already for the slight pain you might suffer as the potatoes do have to be hot or the skin won't come off) with the help of a fork and knife, and mash them very well to avoid any lumps.
> Let the mash cool down a bit. Add to it the eggs and mix well to make sure they are absorbed.
> Add gradually the flour and incorporate it to make a floury and soft mix.
> When you have finished all the flour, you can take portions and roll it on a floured surface and make some sausages which you will have to roll with the palm of your hands to make thinner and longer. The potato sausage must be only 1.5cm wide (I am not expecting you to measure them but just to give you a rough idea).
> If the sausage becomes too long and not manageable, cut it into half and finish with one of it. Using a knife cut it into small cubes (again around 1.5cm long).
> Using the end of a fork, make the ridges. Place a gnocco on the tip of the fork, press down slightly and while pressing push the gnocco away to roll on the ridges.
> In the meantime, boil 2 litres of water (adding 2 tbsp of salt).
> Once you have finished with all of them til the end of the potato mix, drop a few handfuls of gnocchi in the boiling water. They only need to cook for a few seconds. As soon as they come up to the surface, they are ready! So spoon them out and leave them in a dish to which you will have added a spoon of hot water and some of the pesto (recipe below) so that it acquires the right fluidity.
Pesto alla genovese
They are a lot of variations on the theme - Sicilian with walnuts; Sardinian with rocket - but the authentic recipe is from Genoa.
I'm afraid to tell you that you will have to sacrifice an abundant part of your basil plant -however, don't despair! If you cut it just right below the leaf, it will grow even healthier than before!
> 150g basil leaves; 100g parmisan; 50g pine nuts; 1 garlic clove
> In a mortar (or bowl) grind 1 tbsp of sea salt with the garlic and the nuts to mash them well.
> Add some of the leaves and continue grinding. Add the cheese and more leaves.
> The aim is to make a thick paste to which you will add a few table spoons of olive oil (depending on the oil you use, the pesto will become more or less strong). Add more salt if necessary.
P.S. I have just realised that I forgot to tell you that I am running a 5 session Italian cooking course! The three people I have - very brave indeed - are lovely and really open to experiment! Bravissimi!