These little potatoey pillows are quite time consuming to make but the whole process is an absolute pleasure. And they are, of course, also a pleasure to eat. To make things easier you could just create plain pillow-shaped gnocchi, but it's nice to use a fork (or a gnocchi paddle, if you have one) to lightly press ridges onto the gnocchi after you've rolled them. They are particularly excellent when fried in a hot pan until golden and crisp, and will go nicely served with almost anything you can think of.
The best potatoes to use for gnocchi are Albert Bartlett Roosters. The texture and consistency of them is perfect – whenever we made gnocchi in the kitchen at work this is the only potato we ever used. Bake them in the oven until just cooked. Be careful not to overdo them. Mashing them with a traditional masher will not suffice; you need to pass it through a sieve to get it nice and smooth. Once the dough is ready to shape you need to work quickly before it cools down otherwise the starch in the potato becomes gluey. As a general rule of thumb, have one person per potato to help with the rolling and shaping. Get your loved ones involved to help out!
- 2 medium potatoes (Albert Bartlett Roosters, 200g each)
- 1 large egg yolk
- 120 g plain flour
- table salt
Heat the oven to 180 C. Place the potatoes in the centre of the oven for about 40 minutes. Insert a fork into each potato. It should be just cooked and no more. If they are too hard, put them back in for 5 minutes at a time until ready.
Place a sieve over a bowl. Halve the potatoes and scoop them out with a spoon into the sieve and press through with the back of the spoon. You should have about 280 g of cooked potato if you've cooked them correctly (assuming they were 200 g each to start with). Add the egg yolk and mix. Add the flour and mix until just incorporated, then turn out onto a work surface.
Knead the dough by hand until smooth. Don't overwork it as you will develop the gluten in the flour and make the dough elastic. Roll the dough into a long sausage (or multiple sausages) about 2 cm in diameter, then cut cross-ways at 2 cm intervals to create little pillows. You can stop here and omit the next step, but if you want the pretty ridges on your gnocchi, then continue.
Roll each pillow between your palms to make a little ball. Now take each ball, gently squash it onto the back of a fork until it's shaped like a red blood cell, then roll it around itself. You should have a little pillow shape with ridges on it. Place it on a floured board and move onto the next one. Repeat until they're all done. Many hands make light work!
Fill a large pan with water and bring to the boil. Add salt. It should be carefully seasoned: you need 15 g of salt per litre of water. If you're making this recipe to serve 2 then 2 litres of water will suffice, with 30 g of salt. Gently shake or scrape the gnocchi from the floured board into the water. Cook until the gnocchi has risen to the surface; about 2 - 3 minutes. If more than 3 minutes has passed, gently nudge them with a spoon as they might've got stuck to the bottom. Use a slotted spoon to gently remove them from the water onto a tray. Drizzle with olive oil to stop them sticking to each other.