This recipe comes from Gennaro Contaldo – or rather, Gennaro’s mother – and I saw him make it on a BBC programme, Two Greedy Italians. It’s incredibly simple and it literally takes 15 minutes to make.
There is one very, very important thing to remember – I got this from watching Gennaro – and that is to ensure a lightness of touch. Don’t handle the dough as you would a bread dough, or even a pastry dough. Be quick and light, using fingertips wherever possible, never holding on to it for more than a couple of seconds at a time. This ensures that the dough remains light and doesn’t turn into a sticky icky goo.
About the ingredients:
It’s supposed to be Italian 00 flour but I just use normal white bread flour. There’s some chilli in the sauce but you absolutely don’t have to put this in. I once made them using cottage cheese instead of ricotta because I only had a corner shop to go to and they were actually pretty good.
These gnocchi are also great to freeze. Freeze them raw and then cook them from frozen – but for five or six minutes rather than three.
Ingredients for the gnocchi:
- 200g strong white flour
- 250g ricotta
- 3 egg yolks
- 25g parmesan (plus more for serving)
- Salt and pepper
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 chilli/chilli flakes
- 2 tins of tomato (chopped or whole)
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Basil leaves – a small bunch
- Pastry scraper is good for dividing the gnocchi up
Put a giant pan of salted water on to boil.
Make the gnocchi by mixing the egg yolks and ricotta together with a fork. Not a wooden spoon, not a whisk, not anything electrical. Just a nice little fork, quickly and lightly, just to mix together. Add the parmesan and seasoning, mix a little more, then the flour and mix with the fork to begin with and then again, quickly and lightly, bring the whole thing together with your hands. Tip it out onto a clean, floured work surface and make sure that all the bits are gathered together and shape it into a rough flattened ball. It doesn’t need to be smooth. Divide into four. If you have a pastry scraper then it’s ideal for this – it cuts through the dough but doesn’t mark the work surface. Otherwise a normal cutlery knife will work.
Making sure you’ve got enough flour on your work surface to stop it sticking, take each quarter of the dough and quickly roll into a sausage about 20cm long. If the dough seems a bit too sticky then sprinkle some flour on. Then chop, chop, chop quickly along it to make individual pieces about 1.5cm each. You end up with somewhere around 14 individual gnocchi out of each sausage. As you cut, give a flick of the wrist so that you’re pushing the individual gnocchi out of the way. Do the same with the other three quarters.
NB if there are only two or three of you and you want to freeze some gnocchi for another day, this is when you do it. The best way is to spread them out on something flat and put them straight into the freezer for about half an hour to an hour so that they’ve just gone hard then take them out again and tip them into a bag and return to the freezer. If you try to put them in a bag when you’ve just made them they’ll end up sticking to each other.
Carefully drop the gnocchi into boiling water and cook for about three minutes. They’ll float up to the surface quite quickly.
(If you’re doing the quantities for four people and you don’t have a giant pan you’ll have to do it in two batches, keeping the cooked ones warm with a bit of butter or olive oil on them while you cook the second lot).
Make the sauce by chopping the garlic – it’s quite nice if it’s a bit chunky – and cooking it for 30 seconds in the olive oil with the chill. Add the tinned tomatoes, salt and pepper and heat up. Stir in half the basil. That’s it. Really.
When the gnocchi are cooked, it’s better to remove them with a slotted spoon and then put them in a sieve or colander to drain, rather than tipping the whole lot into a colander. This is because they’re still quite delicate and you don’t want them to crash and mash into each other as you drain them.
Put some parmesan at the bottom of each bowl, put the gnocchi on top, pour over the sauce, sprinkle with some more basil leaves and serve with extra parmesan.
I promise you that this can all be done in 15 minutes. 20 minutes max.