Gnocchi are great for a quick and easy meal. Go on, try them
One of the dishes I enjoyed as a boy was the gnocchi or little dumplings which my mother used to cook for my family. At the time it was very unusual to eat gnocchi in England, but because my mother was Italian she often cooked them for us at home. Nowadays, gnocchi are increasingly in vogue in the UK, as we learn more and more about Italian cookery and its dishes.
Types of gnocchi
- Potato gnocchi, made from cooked potato mixed with flour and sometimes egg yolks, to form a soft ‘dough’ which is shaped into dumplings.
- Semolina gnocchi, also known as gnocchi alla Romana. Made from cooked semolina mixed with egg yolks.
- Gnocchi nudi (which means ‘nude gnocchi’!), made from cooked spinach and ricotta.
- Pumpkin gnocchi, made from cooked pumpkin mixed with flour.
Traditionally, these little dumplings were made at home, given a special shape by being pressed against the back of a fork to create ridges which would hold the sauce. Miniature gnocchi added to soups were made by pressing the dough through a sieve.
Nowadays, it’s very easy to find ready-made gnocchi at Italian delicatessens or supermarkets.
If you are following a recipe for home-made gnocchi, here are a few extra tips:
- Be sure to use a floury potato such as Desiree.
- Boil them with their skins on or bake them to avoid excess moisture getting into the potatoes.
- Take care not to over-handle the mixture as they can become heavy.
The secret to cooking gnocchi is not to overcook them. Simply bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, add in the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface, then cook for 8–10 seconds longer before carefully removing them with a slotted spoon.
Part of the appeal of gnocchi is that they’re great for a quick and easy meal. For a simple family supper, serve them with my classic Tomato Sauce, topped with a handful of basil or freshly grated Parmesan. For a hearty meal, use cooked gnocchi as the base for a gratin dish, tossing them in a cheese or blue cheese sauce, then topping them with breadcrumbs and grated cheese and baking until golden. For a luxurious dish, try cooking them with my tasty Seafood Ragu. I used mussels and clams in that but you could push the boat out and use scallops and king prawns instead.