Home Made Gnocchi with Basil Pesto with a Garlic Lemon Ricotta. Che un Piatto Bello!

This stuff tasted so fresh, it was like a garden sprouted in my mouth!
This stuff tasted so fresh, it was like a garden sprouted in my mouth!

Gnocchi are one of those things, when executed well they can be soft pillowy parcels of ecstasy and joy, but when done poorly, they can be stodgy doughy tasteless dumplings. I’m not saying that I make world’s best gnocchi, but let’s just say that this was a pretty damn good effort. When sauced with the lovely fresh green pesto, one gains further appreciation of La Cucina Italiana with every bite. It’s such a simple flavour profile, but tastes oh so good! And honestly, there’s no comparing freshly made pesto with the store-bought jar variety. With the fresh type of pesto you control all that goes into it, the cheese, the pine nuts, the basil. And then making sure you chop it manually with a knife rather than using a food processor (while a bit tedious) allows you to savour the micro-variations in texture this sauce provides. The little quenelle of ricotta was on the plate just to provide a counterpoint to the tangy pesto, a creamy point of reference, while an ample sprinkling of toasted pine nuts and Parmesan shavings rounded out the whole dish together. Semplicemente Delizioso! (Recipe after the jump)

For the pesto:

2 cups of fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts

3/4 cup of freshly grated parmesan

2 medium garlic cloves (peeled)

About 6 tbsp of great quality olive oil

Again, for me, the key to this is using a knife and chopping manually so you can get the feel of the different textures, but feel free to throw all ingredients into a food processor and blitz until the reach a uniform paste consistency. If working manually, I recommend to start with the basil, then slowly add the other (dry) ingredients in bunches. It will take a while, like 15min of almost constant chopping, but I personally think it’s worth the extra effort. Once all the dry ingredients have formed a solid “cake” place in a bowl and add the olive oil and mix with a spoon. For the best results, eat immediately. Although it will stay in the fridge for a few days, you really lose that initial burst of freshness quite quickly.

For the Gnocchi:

(serves about 12 first plate portions)

About 1.5 Kg of potatoes with the skin on

2 cups of all purpose flour

1 large egg

1 egg yolk

Pinch of salt

Boil the potatoes with the skin on in water until very soft (approx 45min) the skin on keeps the nutritional value (and flavour) of the potato within during the process. Peel the potatoes once cooked and pass through a ricer or a sieve/tamis. Place the potatoes on a clean worktop in a mound shape and create a crater at the center of the mound, as you would with a normal pasta, and leave to cool until the potatoes are cool enough not to cook the eggs on contact. Place 3/4 of the flour, egg and salt into the mound, and using a fork, bring the ingredients all together (again, as you would with a normal pasta). Quickly and lightly kneed into a ball of dough, it is important not to overwork it, so that you don’t end up with a thick stodgy dumpling. The dough should be  moist, certainly wetter than a pasta dough, but should not be sticky. If you feel it’s a bit sticky, sprinkle with the remaining flour, 1 tbsp at a time until the dough feels right. Divide the ball of dough into 8 smaller balls. Cover the balls with a moist cloth so they don’t dry out while you work. One at a time, roll the balls into approx 1cm thick snakes and cut away individual gnocchos using a knife at 1.5cm intervals. (Optional) With the prongs of a fork, make impressions on the gnocchi, these will help the sauce adhere to the dumplings, but I generally prefer the look of an unmolested gnocchi.

As with regular pasta, dump the gnocchi in batches into a well salted pot of fast-boiling water. They will not take too long to cook at all, once the gnocchi rise to the surface, they’re ready to be removed using a slotted spoon. You have two choices here either you serve immediately, in which case toss the gnocchi with the sauce (as is our case here) and serve, or dump the gnocchi into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking, and toss in some olive oil to prevent them from sticking and refrigerate for up to 48 hours. The gnocchi can then be either reheated with a sauce or even quickly pan fried and then served with the sauce spooned over.

For the Ricotta

About 200g of Ricotta

2 medium garlic cloves, chopped

Zest of one lemon

1 tsp of lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste.

In a pan on medium heat, quickly saute the garlic until soft but not brown. Add the garlic along with the lemon zest and juice to the ricotta and mix well together. Season with salt and pepper as desired and it’s ready to serve!

Toss the gnocchi with the pesto, and add a tsp quenelle of the cheese onto the plate. Sprinkle toasted pine nuts and Parmesan shavings and dig in! Hope you enjoy 🙂

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