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How To Make Gnocchi

Classic pasta dough

This simple recipe comes straight from Emilia-Romagna, the pasta-making capital of Italy. It is important to use proper finely milled pasta-making flour, which has 'type 00' flour or 'farina tipo 00' (doppio zero) on the packaging. In some parts of Italy, a tablespoon of olive oil is added for elasticity and flavour. Good free-range eggs are also important as they give the pasta a nice bright colour.

  • 500 g/3³/₄ cups 'type 00' flour, plus extra for dusting 
  • ¹/₂ teaspoon salt
  • 5 eggs (the rule is 1 egg for very 100 g/³/₄ cup flour)
  •  

    SERVES 4-6 (4 as a main course, 6 as an appetizer)

     

    Sift the flour into a mound on a marble board or clean work surface. Make a well in the centre, add the salt and crack the eggs in one by one.
    Use a fork or your fingertips to beat the eggs lightly in the center of the well, drawing in the flour a little at a time.
    Note: Since eggs come in different sizes, your dough may be too wet or too dry. If too web add a little more flour; if too dry add a drop of water.
    When combined, knead together into a large ball of dough. It will look smooth, more like pastry than bread. Wrap in clingfilm/plastic wrap and leave to rest in a cool place for 15-30 minutes.
    Once the dough has rested, if working by hand, lightly flour a rolling in and get rolling until you have reached the desired thickness for your chosen shape.
    Roll either by hand or through the pasta machine until very thin and almost translucent, then cut into the required shape. If using a pasta machine, follow the manufacturer's instructions for your machine. I recommend working with one-quarter of the dough at a time to make it more manageable.

     

    Sweet Pasta Dough

    This sweet pasta is a great recipe to have up your sleeve. We serve these puffy pasta cookies covered in powdered sugar with coffee. In Italy, they are typically associated with carnivals and each region has a name for them. In Venice we call them 'galani', other parts call them 'chiacchiere', which literally means gossip. Whatever you call them, they are delicious.

  • 430 g/3¹/₄ oz. cups 'type 00' flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 20 g/1¹/₂ tablespoon soft butter, cut into cubes
  • 65 ml/1¹/₄ cup white wine 
  • 2 tablespoons grappa
  • 70 g/¹/₂ cup icing/confectioners' sugar, plus extra for dusting
  • ¹/₄ teaspoon salt
  • 1 litre/quart vegetable oil, for frying
  •  

    SERVES 10-12

     

    How to roll your pasta: First of all, if you haven't got a pasta machine it's not the end of the world! All the mammas I met while travelling round Italy rolled pasta with their trusty rolling pins and they wouldn't even consider having a pasta machine in the house! When it comes to rolling, the main problem you'll have is getting the pasta thin enough to work with. It's quite difficult to get a big lump of dough rolled out in one piece, and you need a very long rolling pin to do the job properly. The way around this is to roll lots of small pieces of pasta rather than a few big ones. You'll be rolling your pasta into a more circular shape than the long rectangular shapes you'll get from a machine, but use your head and you'll be all right!

     

    Mix all the ingredients (except the oil for frying) together in a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
    When well mixed, remove the pasta dough from the mixer and knead until it's smooth, more like pastry than bred. Wrap in clingfilm/plastic wrap and let rest in a cool place for 15-30 minutes.
    Once the dough has rested, if working by hand, lightly four you rolling pin and get rolling until you have reached the desired thickness for your chosen shape.
    Roll either by hand or through the pasta machine until very thin and almost translucent. If using a pasta machine, follow the instructions for your machine.
    I recommend working with one-quarter of the dough at a time to make it more manageable.
    Cut the pasta into little rectangles, either with a knife or fluted pastry cutter. For the shape, imagine your pasta sheet is an A4/letter-size piece of paper, you want to cut straight down the middle (portrait-side up) and then across in 4-cm/¹/₂-inch spaces.
    Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and deep-fry in batches until golden, puffy pillows appear. Drain excess oil on paper towels. Dust with icing/confectioners' sugar and serve.

     

    Classic Fresh Gnocchi

    I think everyone loves gnocchi. These light, fluffy potato pillows are best dressed with rich tomato or bolognese sauces or if you are feeling indulgent, the Gorgonzola and Walnut would be dreamy.
    Raw gnocchi can be frozen on a tray and then, once solid, placed into a bag for the future. You can cook them straight from frozen, so when I make them I triple this recipe and make a big batch.

  • 1.3 kg/3 lb. floury potatoes 
  • 200 g/1¹/₂ cups 'type 00' flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 large eggs
  • A pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • A knob/pat of butter salt
  •  

    SERVES 4

     

    Scrub the potatoes (with their skins on) and place in a large pan. Add 1 tablespoon salt and cover with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil and cook until well cooked through but not waterlogged. Check with a fork to ensure they are cooked right through to the middle (just like you need when you are going to mash potatoes).
    Tip the flour onto a large, clean work surface.
    Drain the potatoes and begin to peel while hot. You can do this by holding a hot potato on the end of a fork in one hand and using a small vegetable knife to peel off the skin with the other.
    As soon as the potatoes are peeled, put them through a mouli or ricer so they become almost powdery. Add to the flour mixture.
    Make a well in the centre of the potato and flour mixture, add the egg and a pinch of salt and nutmeg. Begin to draw all the ingredients together with your hands and knead for a couple of minutes until well combined into a smooth, soft, pillowy dough.
    You do not want to overwork gnocchi dough as it will lose its lightness and become tough.
    To make gnocchi, cut your dough into quarters. Flours your work surface. Roll the dough out one-quarter at a time into long sausage about 3 cm/1¹/₄ inches in diameter and chop off thumb-size lengths, until you have used all the dough.
    I like to roll each gnocchi over the rough side of a cheese grater or the back of a fork to give some sauce-catching texture.
    Cook the gnocchi in a large pan of boiling salted water, just like pasta. Drop the gnocchi into the water, a small barch at a time (no more than ten pieces at once), and the minute they float to the top, remove with a slotted spoon.
    Place in the serving dish with the knob/pat of butter to stop them sticking together. Top with any of the hot cooked sauces (advice: bolognese sauces) on the website.

     

    There’s no secret to kneading. You just have to bash the dough about a bit with your hands, squashing it into the table, reshaping it, pulling it, stretching it, squashing it again. It’s quite hard work, and after a few minutes it’s easy to see why the average Italian grandmother has arms like Frank Bruno! You’ll know when to stop – it’s when your pasta starts to feel smooth and silky instead of rough and floury.

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