I had the day off on Monday and decided I would make something for J. that I had always been too lazy to make. Gnocchi is such a labor intensive project to take on and I thought I should make it before I was back at work full-time otherwise I would never make it. The entire meal took me a good part of the day but I think it was worth it.

I started with the gnocchi first because I like it to sit for a few hours before cooking. In a large pot I put 5 extra large potatoes (skin still on and whole) and boiled them until they were tender when prodded with a fork. While they were cooking in a really big bowl I mixed 2.5 cups of flours, 1 tablespoon of salt, about a teaspoon of pepper (I only had black but if you have white pepper it makes the gnocchi look better), 2 eggs and 1 cup of ricotta cheese. This doesn’t have to be combined completely, just a rough mix for now as you will add the potato mixture to this.

Once the potatoes have cooked I take them out and let them cool just enough so I can touch them. I use my hands to peel off the skin (if they are cooked correctly they should peel off very easily). If you have a ricer I would recommend using it in the next step but since I didn’t I had to use the old masher… In a bowl I mashed all 5 peeled potatoes until all large lumps were gone. Then added in the ricotta and flour mixture. Now it was time to get messy, using my hand I combined all the ingredients together. Don’t mix too long, a few minutes should be enough, because you want the mixture to stay light and fluffy.

Make sure you have a large flat surface to place the finished gnocchi on, as this makes a very large amount. (Note: pre-cooked gnocchi can be frozen. We froze half of this mixture).

Spread plenty of flour on the counter and roll a large handful of the mixture into a long rope about the thickness of a hotdog. If the rope gets to long just cut it into more manageable sizes. When it is the right thickness cut into inch long pieces. Traditionally people use a fork to shape the gnocchi but my mum has always just used her thumb and forefinger to gently pinch the gnocchi into pillows.

This is a long process but well worth it. I put the pinched gnocchi aside to dry a little while I make the sauce. We are currently trying to have one vegetarian dish a week so I thought I would make a mushroom sauce for the gnocchi.

In a large pan melt 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter and 2 tablespoon olive oil. When hot throw in 1 large shallot diced and 3 cloves of garlic finely minced, you can also add in your favorite herbs at this stage. I used 1 tablespoon dried basil and 1 teaspoon dried thyme. When the garlic starts to brown add 5 cups of sliced portobello mushrooms and mix.

After cooking the mushrooms for a couple of minutes I added 2 cups of chicken stock. I know this isn’t vegetarian but it was all I had on hand. Use vegetable stock if you want to go truly vegetarian. Bring sauce to a boil and then reduce heat and let it simmer for about 20 minutes or until stock has reduced.

I added 1/2 a cup of cream when the stock had reduced, mixing until the sauce started to thicken. If it doesn’t thicken just add a small amount of corn flour (corn starch) to help it along. Once it had thickened slight I added 1 cup of parmesan cheese that had been grated. Stir until it has melted. I also season with salt and pepper at this stage.

While I was making the sauce I boiled a large pot of water for cooking the gnocchi. When the water is boiling I throw in about 10 gnocchi. The great thing about these is that they actually tell you when they are cooked by floating to the top. This usually only takes a couple of minutes. Make sure you remove them from the water as soon as they float because they will fall apart very quickly. Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain and then place them in a bowl. If I am doing a lot like this I will sprinkly some olive oil on them in the bowl just to stop them sticking while I cook the rest.

When I have cooked enough for the sauce I gently add the gnocchi to the sauce, stirring very gently to cover them all. Be gentle because you don’t want to break them up and get mashed potato. Serve in bowls with generous amounts of parmesan and some garlic bread for dipping in the sauce.

The sauce was creamy and delicious and should go with all kinds of other pasta too. Overall they turned out pretty well. I think I will make a half quantity next time because we have heaps left in the freezer to cook later and a weeks worth of lunches of leftover. J. seemed to enjoy it which is great, though I won’t be making them again anytime soon.

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