I was rather excited to be given the most beautifully illustrated recipe book a week or so ago; The Italian Cookery Course by Katie Caldesi. My friend Karly had no use for it and knew just who would appreciate it, me! Giving me a new recipe book to ponder over is like giving a child a very, very exciting toy to play with. So I set about carefully studying many recipes from the book, which is so wonderfully put together, the colourful pages and awe inspiring food photography was enough to keep me captivated by the book for quite some time. The problem is, I inevitably end up with a whole list of recipes to add to my ever growing list of ‘things I want to cook’. I’m sure I’ll get round to them all one day.
It’s important to note that this is far more than just a recipe book, this wonderfully penned bible of Italian cookery features techniques and master classes with beautifully colourful step-by-step photographs for many authentic Italian recipes and techniques. Have you always wanted to make pasta yourself, or quite fancied your hand at baking a Focaccia? It’s all here in this wonderful book. And I’ve a feeling I’ll be making many more of the recipes very soon indeed.
I’ve been meaning to have a go at making potato gnocchi for a while, although I realised this was something that would have to wait until I had a free weekend to really get stuck into it. Luckily, as I’m now off work until mid June, time is exactly what I have. Having said that, I really must set aside some time to pack for my holiday on Tuesday; did I mention I’m off to Majorca?
Having set aside practically the whole afternoon to make my gnocchi and an authentic Italian ragù, I came to realise that it really wasn’t as lengthy a process as I’d initially thought. If I’d realised quite how simple it would be I’d have made it ages ago. 3 basic ingredients, 30 minutes or so and you have yourself homemade potato gnocchi, it really was a pleasure to make too. There is something quite satisfying about having made something you’d normally buy in a packet, and honestly its worlds apart from the dried up versions you buy in the supermarket. You can make your gnocchi ahead of time and freeze them; they keep for up to 3 months. Alternatively, you can make them a day ahead and keep them in the fridge until you are ready to use them.
A couple of things that Katie mentions about making gnocchi, the first is that there is nothing more comforting, and I’d definitely agree. The second is that you should opt for potatoes that are not too waxy, and I can see why, the drier the better, something like Maris Piper or King Edward work wonderfully.
The sauce I chose to accompany my gnocchi (tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragù) was mainly chosen because I already had most of the ingredients, and it called for red wine – what’s not to like? The inclusion of fennel seeds apparently makes the sauce typically Tuscan and it works perfectly with gnocchi.
If you’ve never attempted making gnocchi, but often buy it from the supermarket, I really encourage you to have a go at making it yourself; not only is far superior in taste and texture, it’s ridiculously cheap to make. Next time I’m going to make a large batch and freeze it for weeknight meals. The gnocchi takes about 2-3 minutes to cook, and a couple more minutes from frozen.
There are a few more recipes from the book I’m going to try out very soon, such as honey and pistachio crusted salmon with parsnip mash (an unusual combination, and not one you’d think of as Italian) and I also quite like the sound of the Prosecco and peach jelly. I’m sure my friends will be fans of that one too. Not that I’m implying in any way that my friends a sloshes like me 😉
Gnocchi di patate – Potato Gnocchi
1kg potatoes (King Edward or Maris Piper), unpeeled
150g ‘00’ or pasta flour (you can also use very strong white flour)
Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling salted water until very tender – this could take a while, depending on their size. Drain and peel them while they are still hot, either by holding them in one hand on a folk or with a cloth, and peeling the skin with a knife in the other hand. (This might seem odd, but cooking the potatoes in their skin gives them so much more flavour and stops the water from penetrating the potato).
Pass the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer into a bowl. If you do not have a ricer mashing them will suffice. Stir in the egg using a wooden spoon and season. Add the flour to form a soft, pliable dough.
Flour the work surface, turn out the dough, kneed the ingredients together, adding a little more flour if the dough is sticking to your hands or work surface. The more flour you add at this point the heavier the dough will be, so only add more flour if it’s very sticky.
Roll out the dough into long sausages and chop between 2cm and 4cm in length. Store the gnocchi on a well floured surface whilst you make the rest. You can them roll them over the tines of a folk for texture or make an indentation in the top with your finger – this means more sauce will stick to them – or you could simply leave them pillow shaped and plain.
Set the gnocchi aside while you make the sauce (see below). Then come back to the next step.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and drop in the gnocchi, you might want to do this in two batches. They cook so quickly that the first batch won’t have a chance to go cold. They are cooked when they bob back up to the surface – this takes about 2-3 minutes. Drain well and toss with the sauce (recipe below).
Gnocchi al pomodoro, salsiccia e semi di finocchio – Tomato, sausage and fennel seed ragù with Gnocchi
6 tbsp olive oil
2 whole garlic cloves, crushed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 bay leaves
125ml red wine
400g Italian tinned plum tomatoes
3 heaped tbsp tomato purée
25g finely grated Parmesan
Homemade gnocchi (as above)
Remove the sausages from their casings and chop up the meat to break it up.
Put the olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic and salt and pepper. Fry for about 2 minutes, until the garlic becomes light gold. Then add the onion and fry for a few minutes, until translucent. Stir in the fennel seeds and bay leaves. Put the meat into the pan and fry for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked through. Using a wooden spoon, break up the meat into mince and stop it sticking. If the sausages release a lot of fat, pour it away, although a little won’t hurt.
Add the wine and allow to reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée and stir well. Leave the ragù to simmer for 10 minutes while you cook the gnocchi (according to the instructions above).
When the gnocchi are cooked, drain and toss into the ragù, serve with a scattering of torn basil and finely grated Parmesan.