This may well become one of my all-time favourite recipes. I know adding a butter-rich frying stage to the gnocchi is a bit naughty but it’s only a teeny weeny bit of butter and the texture and flavour you gain is worth it. Plus this is pasta made with potato- you’re already well and truly planted in carb central so a bit of butter really won’t hurt!
1 medium sized potato- you want to end up with about 1 cup of cooked mashed potato
1 ½ cups plain flour
1 egg plus 1 yolk
Salt and pepper
1 cup of unsalted roasted peanuts (shells removed)
1 cup of grated parmesan (or pecorino for vegetarians)
A handful of fresh basil- this will depend on how large you hand is so about 20g
½ cup of good olive oil
Pesto is an incredibly versatile ingredient in itself and has saved many a lazy meal with it’s simple ease- adding it to pasta dishes, using it to season soups and sauces or as a marinade etc … Shop bought is fine but it’s so easy to make, and with a little substitution, not as expensive as you may think. The most expensive part of pesto is normally the traditional pine nuts, my version uses peanuts which are half the price- sometimes less. I think the flavour is delicious and with it being so simple to make it is definitely one of my staples.
To make the pesto is a very simple process of processing- whack it all in a bowl and whizz it up. Don’t blend it into a fine paste; you want to keep it chunky, with texture. The best way to do this is to pulse the blender so you can keep control of the consistency.
A little trick I’ve learnt when using my stick blender and invariably getting covered in whatever is being blended is to use a homemade ‘splash guard’. I have, in the past, used tea towels and pan lids to try and stop the inevitable blender movement but anything that offers a decent degree to food protection means you can’t see what you are doing- disaster for moments of texture importance. Use a piece of acetate, the type from an overhead projector and cut a hole in the middle, then make a single cut from the out edge to the central hole. Because of the rigidity of the plastic this cut will allow you to slip the stick blender into the central hole but still keep the shape of the sheet. Use the blender as per normal but with the ‘splash guard’ pushed down to meet the rim of the bowl- et voila! You can see what you’re blending without getting covered in it!
Right back to the pesto, this recipe makes about a mugful of pesto so pour it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge. I would keep it in the fridge for about a week or two as the oil will preserve the basil and the cheese.
To make your gnocchi, first you will need to make your mash. I have taken the skin off in my recipe but you can leave the skin on but you must really mash up the skins to they are well mixed in- blend it even. Leave your potato uncovered in the fridge for 10 mins so it’s really cooled and a lot of the moisture has evaporated out of it. Add your mash to a bowl with the flour, salt and pepper and mix with your fingertips as you would pastry. When it’s well combined make a well in the center of the mix and add your eggs (pre-beaten), using your hand work the flour/potato mix into the egg until it forms a smooth dough. Plop this out on the floured surface and knead for a further 5 minutes. When it’s nice and smooth, place it back in the mixing bowl and cover with cling film or a plate before leaving to rest in the fridge for 10 mins.
Gnocchi is much like pasta in terms of how to shape it, you can do what you want but they is a tradition way which works really well with the frying stage (Note to any Italians out there- I’m sorry if my version of the traditional way falls short but it tastes really good and tried really hard).
There is a traditional tool to make gnocchi which is a wooden board with ridges in it that the gnocchi is rolled on to give it indents which help to hold on to sauce. I do not have one of these boards so I am using a fork. Divide the dough into four equal portions and work with one at a time, roll the dough into a long sausage that’s as thick as a tube of polos (a roll of mentos for any American readers!) cut into 12 equal sized pieces- now here come the ‘traditional’ bit. Using a fork, roll the gnocchi piece with the tines of the fork so they create indent as the gnocchi roll. It is fiddly and difficult but the intention is to create bits where sauce can get stick so don’t worry too much- just squidge them back into a nugget shape if they get too flattened.
This recipe make enough for 4 people if served with salad and bread, 3 people if served solo or 2 very greedy hungry people. The gnocchi can be frozen but they need to be cooked first, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and pop in the gnocchi, do it in a couple of batches so as not to over crowd the pan. When they rise to the top they are cooked, this only take 2 to 3 minutes, when they bob to the surface scoop them out the set them aside. If you are going to freeze them then let them steam dry for a while before popping them in the freezer- so they won’t stick together too much.
If you are serving them up straight away, allow them to steam off for a minute or two before frying them in a little butter until they are lightly brown on the ridges. Turn the heat off of the pan before spooning over the pesto- I allow about a tablespoon per portion, then serve.