Something different: homemade gnocchi

by Forager on June 15, 2009

A few weeks ago we saw Chef Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish make her famous potato gnocchi with sauteed prawns in a burnt butter sauce on the Masterchef celebrity challenge against Masterchef contestant Chris. It looked delicious and we were reminded that it had been too long since the co-pilot and I had made our own gnocchi. So we decided to make it for our beloved Nonno as it would allow us to spend time with him, cook for him and get his input too as Nonno has been known to have made some delicious gnocchi in his time. So, armed with the recipe and the ingredients we headed off to Nonno’s house to make some gnocchi.

When we got there, we saw Nonno’s kitchen had been prepped for serious gnocchi making. The tables had been cleared and all the ingredients for gnocchi with a traditional pork and veal sugo set aside. I could tell Nonno was a little disappointed when we said we wanted to make a prawn, sage and burnt butter sauce and not his favoured sugo, but after a little convincing, a slightly dubious look and a raised eyebrow, he kindly humoured us young ‘uns with our weird recipes.

Potato gnocchi with sauteed prawns in a burnt butter sauce
(Recipe by Alex Herbert of Bird Cow Fish with some extra Nonno style touches)

Ingredients (serves 6)

1.5kg desiree potatoes
1 x 55g egg

2 tbs grana parmesan

125g plain flour
2 tsp sea salt
300g fresh prawn meat

60g unsalted butter

Salt and pepper

6 tsp salted baby capers, rinsed and drained
¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Verjuice

Sage butter
1 bunch sage

200g unsalted butter

Method:

1. Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan of cold water; bring to the boil. Nonno tells us that the right potatoes are key to making good gnocchi. We’ve used old(er) pontiac potatoes as this apparently makes better gnocchi than new potatoes as there is less moisture in the final mixture. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. The potatoes must be neither under nor over cooked, test with a skewer – when it is easily inserted, they are cooked (avoid testing too frequently otherwise they may become water logged).

2. Drain potatoes into a colander, cover with a fresh tea towel and place colander over the original pot in a warm place for 10 minutes to drain completely.

3. Peel potatoes and pass through a mouli, in batches, into the original dry saucepan.

4. Gently mix in the egg, salt and parmesan. Sieve in the flour and combine with a few swift folds.

At this point, Nonno was watching over me like a hawk. He’d decided he didn’t need to weigh out the flour as per the recipe – he was going with the method of experienced gnocchi makers – add flour until the dough consistency feels right. The key, he tells me, is to avoid adding too much flour. You want the maximum potato to flour ratio – just add enough flour to stop the potato from being too soft and falling apart.

(For all those without a Nonno watching over the process, just follow Alex Herbert’s recipe).

5. Tip potato mixture onto a lightly floured bench and gently work it into a smooth homogeneous mound.


6. Lightly flour the surface, cut off ¼ of the potato mix at a time and roll out into a sausage shape to a thickness of about 1½ cm. Cut each sausage into 2cm pieces. This recipe makes approx 60 pieces. Nonno cuts the first round of gnocchi pieces to show me how it’s done.

I’d like to think my own little gnocchi pillows don’t look half bad.

7. Now, most restaurants will stop at this point, but to give it that extra authentic home-style Nonno touch, you can pattern the gnocchi using a fork. Simply roll the little gnocchi pillow on the concave or inner face of a fork away from you as per the photo below.

The result are some lovely little grooves in the gnocchi but it is labour intensive so when the co-pilot’s uncle drops in to say hello and offers a pair of helping hands he is immediately put to work!

8. Place the finished gnocchi on a tray (you can line it with grease proof paper to prevent them sticking together). These are now ready for cooking in salted boiling water.

9. For the sage butter, heat the butter in a shallow frying pan. When starting to bubble, add the sage leaves and cook until crisp and almost translucent. Pour through a sieve placed over a bowl. Spread the leaves on paper towel to drain. Keep warm. Reserve butter.

10. When ready to cook the gnocchi, heat 20g of unsalted butter in a wide frying pan. It should reach beurre noisette (nut brown stage) before adding 100g of prawn meat. Sauté for one minute, deglaze with a dash of verjuice and add 2 tsp of capers.

11. Cook gnocchi in a large pan of boiling salted water in small batches of 20 pieces at a time. About a minute after the gnocchi has risen to the surface (test to see if it is cooked) remove with a strainer, drain and add to the pan.

Toss the pan to coat the gnocchi in the butter. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 tbs of chopped parsley. Spoon among 2 serving plates and top with fried sage leaves. Deglaze the pan with a little of the sage butter previously saved and pour over the finished gnocchi. Repeat twice more to complete 6 serves.


It was an easy recipe that took us around 2 hours from start to finish. The gnocchi were light and fluffy, the sauce tasty, the prawns so perfectly cooked that even a Masterchef judge might not complain. So what was Nonno’s verdict? Well, he finished his plate of gnocchi and declared it to be very tasty and the gnocchi very well cooked.
He then confided he’d just eaten lunch before we arrived because he’d assumed we’d take at least 5 hours making the gnocchi so he thought he should eat just in case. So, we took the fact that he’d essentially eaten a second lunch to be a positive sign.

He declared it “something different”. At this point, the co-pilot and I had to giggle. Nonno is fond of using the term “something different” when he is presented with things that are of course, different – which aren’t necessarily unpleasant, and he may even have enjoyed it, but given his own way he probably would go back to his habitual ways. He has used this term when I’ve presented him with beef pho, dumplings, char siu BBQ pork, and even on one occassion, durian. Something different

As we cleared the tables, washed the dishes and returned his kitchen to order, Nonno again thanked us for cooking for him. It was something different he again said, but next time we make gnocchi, we should make it with pork and veal sugo.

*sigh* Ah, you gotta love the Nonno.


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Megan{Feasting on Art} June 16, 2009 at 9:28 am

Your gnocchi look so good. I have never made my own pasta but if I did I think I would start with gnocchi.

2 SK June 16, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Gnocchi is one of my favourite pastas. It's really awesome to see the creation process. *drool* Bring on the Gorgonzola!

3 Rilsta June 16, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I saw this recipe on Masterchef and have been wanting to try it. I don't own a mouli and don't want to buy one just for this.

Do you (or your Nonno) have a suggestion for an alternative to a mouli? Will just mashing the potato be enough?

4 Iron Chef Shellie June 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm

yuummm!! looks really good!
Kudos to Nonno for helping 😛

5 Jen (jenius.com.au) June 16, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I think I'd take double the time without your Nonno's help but it sounds totally worth it. mmmm…

6 Chris June 16, 2009 at 6:17 pm

Ooh I wish I had some family secret-style recipes passed on from one generation to the next – the gnocchi looks totally moreish and perfect winter fare!

7 Leona June 16, 2009 at 9:58 pm

WHOA!!!
Fresh Gnocchi! Ive never had fresh ones before only the disgusting frozen ones from woolies!

I love how fresh it looks!!! You make it looks soo easy i bet its super complicated. I can imagine it melting in the mouth.

8 Peko Peko June 17, 2009 at 1:00 am

Hello Forager, Thanks for stopping by KyotoFoodie the other day, sorry I missed your comment.

I am crazy about gnocchi, though I have never made it myself. You inspire me!

Thanks much!

9 Trisha June 17, 2009 at 11:21 am

Oh your gnocchi looks so good! And with the prawns… heavenly!

10 Betty June 17, 2009 at 6:38 pm

oh, this looks yum! haha. gotta love the nonno. i like the pic of him standing over and watching. so cute!

11 Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella June 17, 2009 at 8:23 pm

They look fabulous! I remember watching the episode and just craving that dish. I love the "something different" and Nonna's diplomacy :)

12 Simon June 18, 2009 at 11:32 pm

The Nonno is such a character. I love the whole "something different" like. Not dismissive but not wholely accepting either. He must have been at least a little impressed if you'd completed making the meal in less than half the time he thought it would take.

Nice food shot at the end. Looks real appetising! :)

13 foodie-central June 21, 2009 at 12:43 pm

I was salivating when watching the cook off on Masterchef and your gnocchi and the finished product looks awesome too. hehe.

14 Forager June 21, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Hey Megan – Thanks! They're actually really easy to make so you should give it a shot when you have a spare few hours. So satisfying to make your own pasta :)

Hey SK – Mmm.. Gorgonzola. How about a quattro formaggio gnocchi? Perhaps gorgonzola, parmesan, montasio and gruyere? What would be your combo?

Hey Rilsta – The mouli certainly makes short work of the potato, but you can make do without. Just mash the potato then pass it through a sieve using something like a spoon. You just want to start with a smooth mixture to make it easier to knead and mould. Good luck!

Hey Iron Chef Shellie – Thanks! And Nonno couldn't have sat by without helping even if he tried!

Hey Jen – Nonno is adamant that it takes 4 or 5 hours, but the Masterchef guys took 60 – 90 minutes, we took 2 hours so I reckon, even for a first timer it shouldn't take you longer than 2 hours. Give it a go!

Hey Chris – Those family recipes are the best. There a few more from Nonno that I can't find in other cookbooks so they'll turn up on the blog soon too. Are you sure your folks don't have cool signature dishes?

Hey Leona – No it really is simple, and if you make too many to eat in one sitting you can parboil them and freeze them (as long as you freeze them separated on a tray so they don't all stick together in a clump). Then you can always have home made gnocchi on hand for unexpected dinner guests :)

Hey Peko Peko – Thanks for dropping by! With the beautiful Japanese presentation you're used to, this gnocchi is very "rustic" indeed so I very humbled to have impressed at all!

Hey Trisha – Thanks! I thought the sage, butter and prawns went together quite well, regardless of what Nonno thought!

Hey Betty – Everyone loves The Nonno :) lucky it's easy as he's a pretty lovable character!

Hey Lorraine – Same! The gnocchi on Masterchef looked so delicious! Nonno's "something different" catch phrase is used quite liberally around our household. Used now to describe everything new for us. :)

Hey Simon – I think Nonno was slightly impressed. Well, at least he is always lovely enough to humour us.

Hey Foodie-central – Thanks! You should try the recipe, it's a cinch! And we could all be Masterchef contestants and take on Alex Herbert :)

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