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Provided they are made well, these classic Italian morsels are light and delicious, says Nikki Smith. So follow these simple rules and you can be sure of results to savour. These Italian dumplings are usually made from a blend of egg, flour and potato, though they can be made from other veg, too. They can be served as a delicious alternative to pasta, or to soak up the juices of a hearty stew.
Serves: 4 as a main course
The key with gnocchi, whatever you make them with, is to keep the dough very dry. For potato gnocchi, use only floury potatoes, and make sure they are completely dry before mashing. Some cooks even recommend baking the potatoes rather than boiling them.
For potato gnocchi, mashing with a mouli or ricer ensures light, fluffy results, but an ordinary masher is fine. Don't overmix the dough and never use a processor or you will end up with a gluey mess.
For guaranteed lightness in potato gnocchi, try replacing 25g of the plain flour with self-raising.
Flattening the gnocchi helps them cook evenly, while the grooves from the fork pick up sauce.
Gnocchi are best cooked and eaten as soon as possible after making. If you really want to make them in advance, arrange them on a floured tea towel, making sure they don't touch, cover with a second towel and refrigerate. Don't make them more than a few hours beforehand.
Cook gnocchi in batches. If you overcrowd the pan, they'll take longer to cook and may fall apart. Heat the sauce you are going to serve them with and keep the cooked gnocchi warm in this.
Fresh gnocchi are delicious with butter and grated Parmesan. However, they are also great with a rich tomato sauce, pesto, melted blue cheese and cream or any thick sauce that will cling to the ridges.s
This recipe was first published in June 2004.