The thing I love most about cooking is the satisfaction of creating something. There’s a wonderful feeling of the flow from idea to conception in the kitchen and making gnocchi really exemplifies that for me. There’s something about the shaping of the dough and the cutting and rolling of the little gnocchi balls that makes for a satisfying experience. I’m sure you’ll find yourself rocking back and forth rhythmically while making the gnocchi — everyone ends up doing it!
With this recipe I wanted to keep the flavours simple but ensure they were rich and complimentary to the texture of the gnocchi. Ricotta is a common addition to gnocchi because the tangy flavour of it cuts through the starchy potato and helps to bring out the sweetness of the nutmeg. Pancetta is a great addition to just about pan-fried because the fat that comes out when you cook it is amazingly flavoursome.
You can use sliced pancetta for this recipe, which is what I did, as that was what was available to me or if you can get your hands on flat pancetta, the extra fat and peppery notes from that will make this dish pop even more.
I like to have my gnocchi pre-cooked and cooled down and then when I’m ready to serve I will reheat it in boiling water before adding it to the pan to finish. I find that I get nice results this way and the gnocchi holds its shape well when you pan-fry it. It also splits the prep up a little bit and allows more breathing room during the cooking process.
A lot of people probably think that restaurants only put salads and garnishes on most of their dishes to make it look good. The truth is that a good garnish should compliment the dish. In this case, the balsamic vinaigrette is design to cut through the richness of the gnocchi and the fattiness of the pancetta.
The snowpeas give a lightness and a crunch, which helps diversify the textures and the Parmesan is…more cheese. You really can’t go wrong with parmesan and gnocchi.
As a final note, I should point out that a non-stick pan is essential for frying gnocchi. Gnocchi loves nothing more than to glue itself to a pan and it will be game over if that happens. Trust me.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 10 minutes
- 5-6 small potatoes (250g approx.)
- 100g semolina
- 150g plain flour (plus some extra for working with the dough)
- 1 whole egg
- 200g Smooth Ricotta
- ½ tsp shaved nutmeg
- 30g unsalted butter
- 8-10 cherry tomatoes
- 2 handfuls spinach
- 4 pieces of sliced pancetta
- ½ lemon -juice
- 2 handfuls snow pea shoots
- 60g (approx.) shaved parmesan cheese
- 25ml balsamic vinegar
- 75ml extra virgin olive oil
- Large non-stick pan
- Medium stainless steel bowl
- Smaller bowl
- Large strainer with bowl
- Large saucepan or pot
- Chopping board
- Large flat tray
- A good amount of bench space (gnocchi is messy and takes up a lot of room!)
- Spider or sieve-type spoon (for scooping the gnocchi out)
- Potato masher or ricer
Preparing the Gnocchi
- Start by cooking the potato. Put the potatoes in a pot of cold water (root vegetables go into water cold as a general rule) and cook them until you can stick a fork through the largest one easily.
- Strain the liquid off the potato and mash it thoroughly, ensuring there are no lumps — you really don’t want lumps of plain potato in your gnocchi as they are very noticeable and not particularly tasty.
- Place the potato on a tray or board and evenly distribute the semolina on top. Leave the tray to cool for about 10 minutes or until room temperature.
- Once the potato has cooled, make a well in the centre and add the egg. Then add the flour and nutmeg and mix all the ingredients together with your hands until you have formed a round dough.
- Take the dough and flatten it out again. Add the ricotta and mix it into the dough. If the dough starts to feel too wet or sticky, simply add more flour, a little at a time, until it feels right. Be careful not to work the dough too much, as you will end up with very tight, solid gnocchi that isn’t particularly pleasant to eat.
- At this stage, put a pot of water on to boil. Add a pinch of salt to it. You’ll use this to cook the gnocchi later.
- Roll the dough out into a large sausage and then cut it into thirds, then roll each third into three long sausages and cut them in half.
- Chop each sausage into small pieces about 2.5cm (an inch) thick and, using your palm, roll each piece of gnocchi on a table spoon until they resemble small footballs. The gnocchi in this recipe is fairly large, as that’s how I like it, but feel free to alter the size to your preference.
- Cook the gnocchi in batches. When they float to the top, remove them and place them in cold water in the sink to cool them down. Strain the water off and place them in a container in the fridge for later.
Cooking the Gnocchi
- The first thing to do is put a pot of water on for the gnocchi, so that it is heating up while you chop everything up.
- Thinly slice the red onion, dice the garlic and chilli, halve the cherry tomatoes and slice the pancetta. If you’re using flat pancetta, dice it up instead.
- When the water has boiled, place the gnocchi in until it floats to the top. Be careful when dropping the gnocchi into the pot, as they will splash when they fall in!
- Once the gnocchi start floating, heat a non-stick pan. When the pan is hot, add the butter, followed by the chilli and onion. Saute until the onion is translucent, being careful to keep everything moving so that the chilli and garlic don’t burn. Keep the pan at a medium to high heat so that when you add the gnocchi it doesn’t stick.
- Scoop the gnocchi out of the water using the spider. Shake the excess water off and place into the pan. Perform this step carefully, as adding too much water to the pan will not only cause it to spit, but it will water down your flavours.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and fry the gnocchi until it is evenly coloured.
- Place the handfuls of spinach into the pan and toss, then finish with the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Remove from the heat and serve.
Making the salad
- Add snow peas and Parmesan to a bowl.
- In a separate bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar and olive oil to make the vinaigrette.
- Pour the dressing over, season with salt and pepper and toss.
- Serve on top of the gnocchi or separately. I like it on top with a little extra balsamic drizzled over to give an extra acidic punch.
Gnocchi seems like a lot of work. Hell, anything with the word ‘dough’ in it always sounds like a lot of work. The truth of the matter is, gnocchi is fairly easy to make once you understand how the dough should feel and the great thing about it is that it’s incredibly versatile. Pick a vegetable and you can puree it and replace the ricotta in this recipe to make something vibrant and delicious. Pumpkin and beetroot are two of my favourites. Alternatively you can replace half the potato in this recipe with sweet potato or purple Congo potatoes to get a lighter, fluffier gnocchi with a twist of colour!
Try out this simple version with ricotta and then start experimenting, the more you make it, the easier it becomes!