Small packages

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 June, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 June, 2010, 12:00am

When it comes to making your own pasta, gnocchi is among the easiest. These small Italian dumplings don't require any special equipment other than a ricer - a useful kitchen tool that looks like a large garlic press - and you can make a lot fairly quickly. Different types of starch can be used but the kinds of gnocchi we encounter most often, at least in restaurants, are made with potato.

Potato gnocchi (pictured)

Gnocchi made without egg are lighter and more delicate, although the dough is a little harder to work with. You can add an egg if you like but, if you do, you'll need to add more flour, too. Use a ricer to crush the potatoes to give them the lightest texture.

You don't have to cook all the gnocchi at once. After they've been shaped, lay the excess in one layer on a baking tray lined with plastic wrap and freeze, then put them in a plastic bag and seal. Don't thaw before cooking; just boil for a few extra minutes.

750 grams (about three) baking potatoes

1 tsp fine sea salt, plus extra for the water

About 120 grams plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for shaping the dough

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Prick the potatoes several times with a fork then bake for about an hour, or until the flesh is soft. Peel the potatoes while hot then pass the flesh through a ricer. While the potatoes are warm, mix in the salt and flour by hand until just combined. Don't overwork the dough. If the mixture is sticky, add more flour.

Divide the dough into four pieces. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the others covered with plastic wrap so they don't dry out. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a snake about 1cm in diameter. Cut into 1.5cm lengths and shape each into an oval. Mark one side of each gnocchi with the tines of a fork without flattening it too much and cover with cling-film while working with the rest of the dough.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil then simmer. Cook the gnocchi in batches - they're ready when they float to the surface. Use a shallow sieve to scoop out the cooked gnocchi and serve with any of the following sauces.

Sausage and pepper sauce

20ml cooking oil

1 large garlic clove, minced

1/2 medium-sized onion, thinly sliced

1 medium-sized red bell pepper

1 medium-sized yellow bell pepper

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes, or more to taste

350 grams fresh Italian sausage

1 250-gram tin diced Italian tomatoes

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Freshly grated parmesan cheese, to serve

Remove and discard the core and stem from each bell pepper, then cut the flesh into 5mm-wide slices. Heat the oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and onion and cook over a low flame until soft. Turn up the heat to medium, add the pepper slices and saut? until slightly wilted. Add the pepper flakes and stir over a medium flame for about 30 seconds. Remove the sausage meat from the casing and break into small chunks. Add the meat to the pan and cook over a high flame until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the sauce is slightly reduced. Spoon the sauce over the gnocchi, sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve.

Garlic-shoot pesto

Garlic shoots - also called garlic scapes or green garlic - resemble snake beans; they are long, green and slightly curling with a pungent garlic smell but the flavour is less strong. You'll find them at wet markets and branches of Wellcome. Spoon the garlic-shoot pesto over the gnocchi as soon as they've been boiled and drained; the resi- dual heat will cook the pesto slightly.

300 grams garlic shoots

About 200ml extra-virgin olive oil

20 grams walnuts

30 grams freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for sprinkling

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Trim off and discard the tough, pale-yellow ends from the garlic shoots leaving only the pale to deep green parts. Cut the shoots into 2cm pieces and put them in a food processor. Add 150ml of olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Process until the shoots are a rough paste, adding more oil if the mixture is too thick. Add the walnuts and process until roughly ground: the pesto shouldn't be too smooth. Stir in 30 grams of parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste, then spoon over the hot gnocchi. Sprinkle with more parmesan before serving.

Gorgonzola and gnocchi gratin

Butter, for the baking dish

1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

300ml cream

250 grams gorgonzola

Freshly grated nutmeg and black pepper

Freshly grated parmesan, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Liberally butter a gratin dish and spread the cooked gnocchi in one layer. Pour the cream into a saucepan, add the garlic, a little grated nutmeg and a lot of black pepper. Simmer for about five minutes then pour over the gnocchi. Break the gorgonzola into small pieces and scatter over the gnocchi. Spread a thin but even layer of parmesan cheese on top then bake at 200 degrees until the cream is thick and the cheese is brown and bubbling. Serve immediately.

Styling Corner Kitchen Cooking School




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