A long time ago I tried to make gnocchi. The plot involved an Italian boyfriend, sleep deprivation and a fabulous walnut sauce. The plot, alas, got lost. The gnocchi dissolved into something akin to prisoner of war camp potato soup or being more charitable: wallpaper paste. The fabulous sauce dried up and was never used. The boyfriend sneered. I sulked. Fast forward a number of years, a desire to vanquish the gnocchi demon and a sneaking suspicion that some little dumplings made with “Urda” and sexed up with a fabulous pesto would work. And work they did… in fact they have been eaten twice in one week, once fresh and once frozen and both times equally beguiling.
Gnocchi work well with all manner of sauces but they seem particularly delicious with a more piquant sauce…this garlicky, lemony, almondy sauce does the trick. I discovered this pesto by accident: lemons, a load of garlic, some slightly limp parsley and a crumpled bag of apricot kernels on one of those nights when you look at your cupboard and think “is there a meal here”…and of course there always is. Now this pesto is one of my favorites. I have used it as a spread on crostini, drizzled over halloumi (amazing!) and with the gnocchi.
These gnocchi are fast, they freeze and they work with many sauces. Give them a go and you will have a wonderful earthy comfort food dish mastered perhaps a bit faster than I managed.
Ingredients: Gnocchi for 4 people
500g Urda (I chose the “gras” variety and I am kind of glad I did)
A bit of nutmeg
40g grated parmesan
Parsley, pesto and almond pesto
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Quite a lot of garlic – 5-10 cloves
One hot chilli
150g almonds or if you can find them, apricot kernels
2 bunches of parsley
Good olive oil
Salt & pepper
1. Blitz all the pesto ingredients together and pour into a jar. To coat the gnocchi you will need 3-5 tablespoons depending on whether you like your gnocchi heavily coated or more moderately coated. Anyhow…this sauce is better than taking a hundred vitamin pills so personally I would go heavy on the sauce even if that is not quite authentic
2. To make the gnocchi try and channel all your best grandmother and dumplings energy. What you want is a nice moist dough (don’t overwork it) that doesn’t crumble yet is not overly sticky. Take a large bowl and crumble in your “Urda” and crack 2 eggs in. Sprinkle in approximately 1 tsp nutmeg and the parmesan. Add the flour and now just use your hands. Squish and mix until it comes together.
3. Divide the dough into four and roll each piece into a sausage. Cut into little discs. As you cut the discs you can reform them to be circular (I did but it’s a bit anally retentive) or leave them kind of “lozenge” shaped after the cutting. I left mine on a tray covered with flour for a good couple of hours. I had a hunch (or a fear) that they needed to “sit” and meld and this would reduce chances of disintegration on cooking. If you want to freeze them, put your tray in the freezer and when they are frozen pop them into bags.
4. Get a big saucepan of water boiling. Drop in a batch of gnocchi and wait until they float to the top. Leave them to cook 2-3 minutes and then drain with a slotted spoon in a bowl with a little melted butter. You can cook them direct from frozen (yayyy!) but they take approx 10 minutes in total and lurk for longer at the bottom of the saucepan before deciding to float. When all the gnocchi are cooked quickly return to the pan (after you tip the water out) to use its heat and swirl in the pesto.
5. Serve the gnocchi topped with parmesan and fresh parsley in warm bowls or plates.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is the chef and owner of the London Street Bakery, which offers healthy seasonal food. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)