This Sunday I have eaten “Gnocchi with ragù” and since it is a dish I love, I’m going to share this delicious recipe with you, sure you will like it. “Gnocchi” preparation is not difficult, and even those who are not expert cooks can try it, because gnocchi are only half the story, if anything, the problem is the Neapolitan diabolical “Ragù” that, although not so difficult to make, takes time and the right ingredients. Such a treat! This post pertains to gnocchi, which are nothing more than “fresh pasta”, while the ragù can be replaced with a common tomato sauce, however. Whichever way, gnocchi are great accompaniment for Italian dishes by different recipes. Instead, if you just are denied for cookery, I advise you to choose an Italian or Neapolitan restaurant whose menu includes gnocchi with sauce, and taste them at least once in your life.
Note that “gnocchi” is the plural of “gnocco” and we guess the name is due to its shape that could come either from “nocchio” which is a knot in wood, or from “nocca” meaning knuckle, just to mean a small bulge. Besides, here, “gnocchi” once were called “strangolapreti o strozzapreti” that literally means “priests-stranglers” or “priests’ stranglers” because it is told that in the 18th century a priest loved so much them and ate so many that a “gnocco” once blocked in his throat, chocked him to death. Shortly, gnocchi are thick but small soft dumplings, made with potato and flour simply.
Gnocchi preparation for 4-5 persons.
• 800 g (1 ¾ lb) (old floury) potatoes;
• 200- 300 g (7 – 10 oz) plain flour;
• 1 Egg (medium size, this ingredient can be optional as many don’t add it);
• Salt for the boiling water.
Take into account that the flour quantity is indicative because it depends on potatoes absorption, since there are various types of potato on the market and each type absorbs different amount of flour (due to the different amount of water absorbed during boiling). However, you shouldn’t add too flour in order to keep the gnocchi softer.
1 Put the unpeeled potatoes into a pan of cold water (slightly salted) and boil them for 20-25 minutes or until tender. Potatoes should be roughly of the same size so that the boiling time is the same for them all. Generally speaking, the potatoes should be ready when the skin starts showing some cracks. Try to prick the potatoes with a fork and if you do not find any resistance, then the potatoes are ready for the next stage.
2 Drain the potatoes and as lukewarm peel them. Mash them in a pan to get a purée-like and let cool down for about 10 minutes.
3 Spread some flour onto the work surface to avoid the mashed potatoes sticking to it. As working surface any table or kitchen counter-top is good.
4 Put the egg into a small bowl and whisk it for few seconds (as told this is facultative). We are not going to add the whole egg into the potato mixture otherwise the mixture could be too wet requiring too much extra flour to complete the dough (excessive flour will make the gnocchi stodgy). Better to have the egg in a bowl and to add what we need, just two-three spoonful of it could be sufficient.
5 Put potatoes on the working-surface, add half of the flour and mix with your hand adding a spoonful of egg.
6 Mix and add the rest of the flour and other egg, always mixing and knead the mixture for 5-7 minutes till getting the final dough that should be smooth and elastic (not sticky). If while mixing you think it is too dry, then must add an extra spoonful of egg or, if it is too wet other flour, to bring the dough to the right consistency. Give it a cylinder-shape while the final dough will look like a soft loaf of bread.
7 Cut the dough vertically in 4-5 or 6 pieces. Flour the work surface lightly and then, press and roll each piece onto the surface to make long sausage-like strips. The sausage should be about as thicker as your thumb. Cut the sausage in about 1 inch (2 ½ cm) long pieces. It is not necessary to give them a particular shape. Take into account that during the next boil the pieces will dilate a little bit, so avoid cutting bigger pieces.
8 This step is facultative and you can jump to the next if you want. Sweep each piece lengthwise toward you, pressing against the board with your fingertips. This will make each piece to curl up, taking the shape of a little shell. For this purpose you may also use other utensils such as the back of a cheese grater or a fork. In this case, gnocchi will be ridged and curled. Some prefer to roll the gnocchi onto the fork prongs will make grooves on their surface. If you want to do a top job, I suggest you use a grooving board specifically made for this purpose. These are all good ways to retain more sauce around their surface.
9 The cut pieces should be laid onto the lightly floured work surface and separated each other to avoid they stick together. Put on a cloth and let them to dry a little bit. For the lunch, Neapolitan housewife usually prepare gnocchi in the morning, so they are ready for lunchtime.
10 In the meanwhile prepare the “ragù” (original recipe needs 5-7 hours) or a simple tomato sauce, possibly made with some leaves of basil.
11 Fifteen minutes before the banquet has to come, take a large pan of salted water and bring to the boil. When the water is gently boiling, put the gnocchi into the pan and wait! The gnocchi will be cooked when they start floating (it should take not more than 3-4 minutes). Leave them to float for a further 1 minute. A way to check if the gnocco is done is to cut it and look at its interior part which should be wet as the surface and not floury. Take them out with a slotted spoon and put them quickly into the saucepan containing the tomato sauce (this has to be hot).
12 Gently toss the gnocchi in the saucepan for about 20-30 seconds adding some basil leaves. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan cheese, serve it immediately and….. Buon appetito!
To get the “Gnocchi alla Sorrentina” start from the point 11 and follow these step:
– Gently toss with a couple of tablespoons of sauce, then put any serving (portion) into a single oven-dish mixing a handful of diced mozzarella inside(you will need 4-5 oven dishes). Sprinkle again with a couple of tablespoons of tomato, a generous sprinkling of Parmigiano Reggiano, and place them under the (oven) grill for a few minutes. The ideal time will depend on the power of your grill: we say that will be ready when the Parmesan is just-browned and reaches a nice light-brown color. When gratin is complete, remove the dish and serve garnished with a 2- 3 leaves of fresh basil.
The following is a simple recipe to get a fresh tomato sauce to dress gnocchi or to prepare “gnocchi alla sorrentina” :
FRESH TOMATO SAUCE
1 kg. (2-3 lbs) of fresh, red and ripe tomatoes (better if San Marzano variety, Roman type or paste Variety);
3- 4 tablespoons of olive oil;
2-3 fresh basil leaves;
1 teaspoon salt.
1 – First skin the tomatoes. To do this, pour boiling water over them and leave them for exactly 1 minute or less if the tomatoes are small. Then cut half any tomato and squeeze the seeds out over a strainer over a bowl and reserve the juices. Either coarsely chop you tomatoes on a cutting board or use a potato masher to do so in your pot, as you cook them in a bit.
2 – Put tomatoes in a pot and cook on a low heat until tomatoes get limp and crush, stirring from time to time. It needs few minutes
3 – Pour this sauce in a grinder and mash, putting the juice in the prior pot.
4 – Heat the sauce adding oil, salt and basil over medium heat, stirring from time to time. Then let simmer on low heat for 20 min as minimum or more until thick.
I would like to know if any of you followed these my recipes and succeeded!