Gnocchi with cheese sauce

Every so often my adult children demand gnocchi for dinner. “Not again!” I say, and then I actually make the stuff and wonder why I ever object. The taste, the texture, the look of the little devils: it’s impossible not to love gnocchi. As a vehicle for strong flavours, gnocchi can’t be beaten.

Gnocchi with cheese sauce
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To make gnocchi with an over-the-top gorgonzola sauce for four you will need:

  • 1kg potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 200g white flour

For the sauce:

  • 250g gorgonzola cheese
  • 80ml Old Brown sherry
  • 100g fresh pecan nuts
  • 250ml cream
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil

There’s a glorious sense of mystique in making gnocchi. Not quite as much mystique as hand-rolling your own pasta, but then gnocchi is just so much simpler to produce. My brother, who is a better, but much less frequent cook than me, is usually so overwhelmed that whenever he makes his own pasta, he emails me five or six large photographs of himself doing it.

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So, it’s gnocchi time in Durban. Peel the potatoes, cut them in quarters and boil them in lightly salted water until soft. Remove from the pan and let them dry on a paper towel. Their residual heat should partially dry them out. Hasten the drying out by sticking them in a slow oven (150°C) for 15 minutes. All this drying out fuss is for the good of the gnocchi, which needs a minimum of water in the mix. Place the cooked potatoes in a mixing bowl and mash them.

Separate the eggs and add only the yolks to the bowl. Mix well with a fork and then slowly add the flour a little at a time, mixing all the while. A generous pinch of salt completes the dough which should be an enticing light yellow in colour. Lightly flour a working surface and roll out thin rolls of dough, say 10-12mm in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut these into equal sections 10mm in length. With a fork, lightly flatten each section, impressing shallow grooves as you do so. The grooves are not decorative but highly functional since that provide a key for the sauce.

Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil and drop in the raw gnocchi 15 or so at a time. Watch vigilantly; when cooked they rise to the surface from which you remove them with a slotted spoon. Reserve and continue until all are cooked.

Sauce time. Lightly toast the shelled pecans with a heat gun. In a large frying pan on low heat, stir-fry the finely chopped garlic for 30-40 seconds, then crumble in the gorgonzola cheese. Stir well until it melts, then pour in the cream. Bring up the heat marginally and, stirring continuously, let the creamy sauce reduce 25% by volume. Add the sherry, drop in the nuts and it’s done. Serve the gnocchi with a couple of tablespoons of the sauce per serving. Some freshly steamed green beans add to the general colour and a shot of Old Brown gets the party rolling.

Contact David Basckin at [email protected]. Please state ‘Real cooking’ in the subject line of your email.