Basics Series – Potato Gnocchi with Choice of Sauces

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gnocchi with chestnuts, mushrooms and gorgonzola
gnocchi with tomato sauce

Gnocchi is one of those dishes where I feel there are light years between homemade and almost all the versions you can buy. It’s also something that seems like it must be complicated, but is actually very straightforward if you follow a few principles:

  • use the right sort of potatoes – floury rather than waxy
  • bake or steam in their skins rather than peel and boil – so they don’t absorb extra water
  • If possible use a potato ricer, or mash finely – so no lumps
roll each quarter of the dough into a sausage

This is one of the dishes, like our family pizza (recipe yet to be posted) that Mr GP is in charge of – generally things that involve a certain repetition and dexterity – while I do the sauces. This is also one of Miss L’s favourite dinners, so I decided to write up a detailed recipe for my Basics Series, with lots of pictures, so next time she can make it solo!

arrange gnocchi on plates without touching

It might seem like a strange choice for a beginning cook, but firstly, and most importantly, she loves it, which is always a great incentive. Secondly, it’s a dish that is easily staged – sauce the day before, gnocchi in the morning, put it together at dinner – and the the only slightly tricky part (shaping and cooking the gnocchi) is nicely reptetive, so you get lots of practice! Homemade dumplings have the same pluses 🙂

Potato gnocchi

Gnocchi dough adapted from a Silver Spoon recipe

  • 1 kg floury (mashing or baking) potatoes
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg

Mushroom Gorgonzola sauce

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 200g swiss brown mushrooms
  • 20g porcini mushrooms (optional)
  • 100g cooked and peeled chestnuts (optional)
  • 60ml dry white wine
  • 200ml cream
  • 100g Gorgonzola or other creamy blue cheese

For Gnocchi:

Steam whole potatoes until tender. While still hot, cut in half and push through a potato ricer (if you don’t have a ricer, peel off the skin and mash). Add the flour, salt and then egg, and mix thoroughly until a stiff dough.

While still warm, divide the dough in four parts, and roll each part into a sausage about 2cm thick. Cut into short pieces, and press one side of each piece onto a fork, grater or other surface to give one rough side. To prevent sticking, lay the gnocchi out on plates or a tray as you finish each piece.

At this stage you can put the gnocchi aside until you’re ready to cook, or in the fridge over night. When ready to cook, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the gnocchi in batches, so you don’t have more than a single layer when they sink to the bottom of the pan. Cook until they rise to the surface and then another 30 seconds. Taste one if you’re not sure.

Scoop out with a slotted spoon and add cooked gnocchi to a buttered ovenproof dish, keeping warm in a low oven until you have finished all batches.

If making the cream sauce above, add the gnocchi to the finished sauce and gently mix through. The other version we often make (see above) is to pour over a simple tomato sauce (recipe below) in the oven proof dish, sometimes with olives, top with some mozzarella and parmesan, and bake briefly until the cheese is melted.

For mushroom cream sauce:

Heat the oil over low heat in a large frying pan, add finely chopped or crushed garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Slice the fresh mushrooms increase the heat to medium, and add to the pan. Meanwhile, cover the porcini with boiling water and leave for about 5 minutes. Remove the porcini from the water, check for any dirt, then slice and add to the pan with chestnuts if using. Add the wine and bubble for a few minutes until mostly evaporated, scraping the base to remove any stuck bits. Add the cream, and simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the blue cheese and stir through just before adding the gnocchi. Season with pepper and a little salt.

For a smoked salmon version, substitute a spring onion and 2 small zucchini for the garlic and mushrooms. Leave out the chestnuts, and substitute 200g smoked salmon, with a handful of dill or parsley instead of cheese. Add a squeeze of lemon at the end.

For a tomato sauce if you prefer:

  • Put medium saucepan on low heat with 1Tbs olive oil.
  • (If you would like to add onion, finely chop one small or half a large onion, and saute covered until translucent and softened, about 10 minutes.)
  • Add one crushed or finely chopped clove of garlic and 2 anchovies and saute for three minutes.
  • Add a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes, a large sprig of oregano, and approximately 200ml tomato puree, or 2 Tbs tomato paste and 160ml water. 
  • Bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered for about 15 minutes. 
  • Add 10 sliced green or Kalamata olives at the end.

Serves 4 generously