Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese (potato gnocchi) Nanna’s way
The golden rule when cooking gnocchi is to always use old potatoes. I’m talking about the ones you have forgotten about for a week or two that are starting-to-shoot-and-grow-more-eyes, kind of old.
My mum tells me about when she first cooked gnocchi for dad, after they were married, and how instead of serving him up the beautiful plate of pillowy, doughy morsels she had envisioned, she had to throw out a saucepan full of watery, potatoey and floury mush. She obviously didn’t listen to Nanna.
Well I sure did. Last Saturday I spent the day cooking deliciously sweet potato gnocchi with my amazing grandmother and I’m about to share her words of wisdom (and her recipe) with you now.
Before I do though, let me tell you a little more about my Nanna Maria.
Firstly; she is amazing. If you continue to read my posts, you will only begin to appreciate how true this is. I know everyone has a special place in their heart for their Nanna but mine truly is a star. Let me explain.
When Nanna, her mother Giussepina and her older sister Palma made the trip to join my great-grandfather Antonio in Australia back in 1938, the globe was about to be caught in the grips of World War II. My great-grandfather had begun to make a life for them, working as a potato and onion picker.
Unable to speak a word of English, Nanna tells me that it was her mother’s food that endeared their family to the fearful and predominantly Australian community of Warrion – in South West Victoria. Giussepina would bake loaves of bread in the old stove, sending wafts of wheaty smells into the town air and like the music in the Pied Piper, these smells would draw all the children to the Luppino home. Being Italian, Giussepina was only too keen to share her food with the children and I guess this is how they overcame the cultural divide: with food. It’s a philosophy I continue to employ today when I share food to bring people together.
So in the spirit of my great-grandmother’s generosity, I will now share with you, Nanna’s Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese recipe. I vividly remember Nanna making these most weekends and watching in awe (and some frustration) as she would artfully flick the gnocchi up the back of a fork to imprint them.
I never could get the hang of that until last week! You can use a gnocchi board to put ridges in too (this looks more professional) but Nanna insists on using the fork (the ‘old school’ way) and I must admit, it does seem more authentic.
Nanna also prefers steaming the potatoes rather than boiling because they don’t take in too much moisture. You can boil or bake them though if you prefer. I’ve also provided you with a version of Nanna’s secret bolognaise sauce and meatballs that she serves with the gnocchi. With a little parmesan on top, it’s absolutely too die for. So read on and enjoy!
Gnocchi di Patate con Bolognese
Gnocchi (serves four)
- 500g of old potatoes, peeled, chopped and steamed
- 50 g butter
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 50g self raising flour
- 250g plain flour
While the potatoes are still warm, add the butter and mash well. Pour in the egg and mix through.
Sift the two flours together and mix through about three quarters of the combined flour. Mix through with your hands to form the dough. It should hold together and be soft and smooth so add more of the flour if it’s still too sticky.
Heavily flour your board or bench top and work the dough into a ball. Be careful not to overwork it though. Pull off a section at a time and roll it into a ‘snake’. Each snake should be about 1cm thick. Keep the length of your snake manageable (just cut off whatever you don’t need and redeposit into the ball).
Once you have your four or five manageable ‘snakes’, start cutting the individual gnocchis with a butter knife. They should be about 1.5 cm long. Place them on prepared trays laid with baking paper.
After cutting all the gnocchi, use a fork or gnocchi board to put indents into the dumplings. If using a fork, the easiest way is to push the fork into your bench/board with the back facing upwards. Then, place the gnocchi on the bottom of the fork and using your index finger, roll it upwards. (See the photo below)
This sounds tricky but really isn’t, just give it a go and see what works for you.
Fill a large saucepan three quarters full with water and bring it to the boil. Add a good pinch of salt.
Pour the gnocchi all in at once. At this stage, Nanna says that you should not stir but use Nonno’s trick of sticking the end of a wooden spoon into the middle and just tapping the bottom firmly to help separate the dumplings.
Within minutes, the gnocchi will rise to the surface. Once they are all up, boil for only another two minutes or so, and then strain well.
Serve with Nanna’s bolognaise sauce and meatballs, or your favourite sauce, and enjoy!
Now that you have the gnocchi, here are two sauce ideas you can serve it with – both can be made ahead of time, and freeze really well too.
- 1 brown onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Olive oil
- 300g mince beef
- 4 tbs red wine
- 1 litre of tomato sugo (tinned tomatoes or supermarket ‘passata’ will do)
- 3 tbs tomato paste
- 1 handful of fresh basil
- 1 handful of fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper
- 4 eggs, hard boiled and then shelled
- Salt and pepper
Heat a good glug of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the meat.
Mix and separate the meat until brown. Remove from pan.
Add some more oil, heat and add onions. Stir constantly for two minutes.
Once the onions are opaque, add garlic and continue to stir constantly for about two minutes or the garlic starts releasing its aroma.
Return the mince to pan, heat through and deglaze the pan with the red wine.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except the boiled eggs, and stir well. Simmer for up to two hours, stirring occasional. The longer you simmer, the richer the flavour but if you’re time pressed, half-an-hour of simmering is fine.
Add the eggs at the end, just to heat through.
- 500g mince beef
- 2 cup of fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup of parmesan, finely grated
- ½ cup parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- Olive oil
Using your hands mix everything together in a bowl until well combined. Roll into balls.
Lightly fry in a pan of heated olive oil. At this stage, you only want to brown them, don’t cook through.
Drop into the sauce (above) once it begins to boil and cook through.
There it is; a little piece of my culinary history. You’ll find this is a meal that will both satisfy the hungriest tummy and impress the fussiest guest. It truly is an easy recipe to master and one that you can add your own flair to, depending on what sauce you decide to use and what ingredients you put in the gnocchi. This is a basic gnocchi recipe that you could add any flavours to – even sweet ones! Some ideas include chocolate, pumpkin (instead of potato), herbs and more. Have fun with it and let me know how you go!
So what’s your favourite family recipe? How have you used it to bring people together?
Next Monday I will share another family recipe that I love. Mum’s Italian Vegetable and Lentil Soup.
Recent articles from the Uforic Food table:
- Indulgence – Sometimes it’s Crucial. Plus a Recipe or Three! By Lisa Mary
- A Clash of Culures By Ruza
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