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.

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.

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.