20 Mar 2012

Homemade Gnocchi di Patate with Homemade Basil Pesto

Valdís makes gnocchi

It has been a while since I made gnocchi - probably sometime in autumn 2007 if I remember correctly. Back then I made it in the same way as I did now, with the difference that before I served the gnocchi with a simple but delicious tomato sauce. This time the accompaniment was a lovely, deep green homemade pesto. I was first acquainted with this dish when I was travelling through the Piemonte region in northern Italy around 12 years ago. There gnocchi is a common dish and frequently seen on menus. It was by complete chance that I ordered it - I assumed I had ordered the pasta that goes by the same name, but instead I was served a bowl full of strange little balls covered in sauce. The texture of gnocchi is rather different from regular pasta - soft and doughy and in my opinion - very tasty.

Cooked balls of dough, or dumplings, are of course nothing new. They have been produced in one form or the other in most countries for over 2000 years. Potato-pasta is on the other hand a slightly younger creation and was first made in the sixteenth century after the Spaniards brought potatoes back to Europe with them from their conquests of South-America. As a consequence, this specific type of pasta was born - gnocchi di patate!

Homemade Gnocchi di Patate with Homemade Pesto

Homemade pesto
I made the simple and traditional potato-pasta this time, using potatoes and flour, but if you are feeling adventurous you can easily add for example ricotta cheese, sweet potatoes, spinach, herbs or whatever comes to mind. This is also the kind of food where you can get the kids involved in the preparation - my daughter Valdís had no problems joining us in the gnocchi-making!

Gnocchi di Patate

Boil one kilo of waxy potatoes in richly salted water. When they are boiled, pour away the water and peel and mash the potatoes. To the potatoes you add 2 eggs, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, a bit of maldon salt, freshly ground pepper, 2 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese and finally 150 gr of flour (sometimes you need to add more flour to thicken the dough). Mix the ingredients well and then knead into a rather thick dough. Cut small balls from the dough and roll each one into a sausage, cut into bite size pieces and then carefully shape the gnocchi with a fork.

Put boiling salted water
Boil the potato-pasta in generously salted water, the pasta will at first sink to the bottom but when ready, it will stoically float to the surface. Then it is fished from the water preferably using a slotted spoon so the water will drain away.

Dressed with some fragrant pesto

Making pesto is child's play. You can almost use whatever green herbs or leaves you want and the same holds for the nuts. I have made pesto using basil, parsley, rocket, coriander, but also from a mix of this and that - I have even used rosemary and thyme - and all of these ingredients have produced a great tasting pesto. Using toasted pine nuts is also classic, but toasting them is not a rule edged in stone, plus you are free to use different kinds of nuts, for example walnuts or pecan nuts.

Although, this time I stuck to familiar paths and made the traditional pesto: leaves from three basil plants, handful of toasted pine nuts, 70-100 gr of shredded grana padano cheese, salt, pepper and then of course extra virgin olive oil. Combine everything in a food processor or a mortel and mash until you have reached the desired thickness.

With the food we had a nip of white wine from a bag in box, Drostdy-Hof Chardonnay. I frequently buy wine from this producer - and it is usually a good buy. It is a wine from South-Africa and is quite good for a bag in box wine - mild yellow color, fruity and rather dry. Ice cold and refreshing.

Ready for the palate

Bon appetit!

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