What's the best part of winter? The food of course and unabashedly delving into carbs. Try this amazingly light and tender gnocchi from the delightful Katrina Pizzini of Pizzini Winery in the King Valley. It's paired with her incredible pistachio and almond pesto for a delightful Italian home cooked meal.
Gnocchi is a labour of love. I won't sugar coat it and tell you that it's easy or quick. It requires time and patience and you really want a few hours in the kitchen to do this, preferably on the weekend because this isn't really a meal to make after work. The recipe below makes a vast amount-enough for a large family gathering but Katrina also gives instructions for freezing gnocchi as well. But the reward is wonderfully light and tender gnocchi (no heavy bullets sinking in the pit of your stomach here) and the sauce?
Well I mentioned the pesto right? When I first tried the pesto my eyes lit up and I knew that this was one of the best pestos I had tried. The mix of pistachio and almond is ambrosial (remember the pistachio and almond biscotti?). Promise me that you'll try and make this pesto? I know that not everyone is in the mood to make gnocchi from scratch but if you do you'll probably fall in love with this gnocchi recipe too. But at least the pesto can be done in 10 minutes, maybe a bit more if you do it in the mortar and pestle (which produces lovely uneven chunks).
I didn't do this on the best day. I did it on a day that I was very busy and running back and forth. In the middle of the gnocchi making I had a outdoor gym training session. As Nina is away I trained with her colleague Lisa and I was so busy we had to have it in our backyard garden. I was slightly wary of Lisa because I had heard that she makes people train in the rain and that she would think I was a spoiled princess.
Afterwards Nina asked, "How did training go?". She was eager to see how Lisa and I would gel.
"The closest thing I could describe it as is the iceberg hitting the Titanic," I said.
Lisa is a fit Brit with short blond hair and a very gung ho and enthusiastic attitude-I see her punching the air a lot for some reason. Quite different from Nina who is more gentle and easy going. Lisa had promised to be gentle with me but I could tell that we were two different workout speeds. "Come up faster! Faster!" she'd say and I'd hear the urgency in her voice but I'd also hear the lack or urgency in my muscles.
My favourite lines were, "Stick your ass out like you want it to be spanked!" or "Stick your boobs out like you are showing them off!". "You got this!" she'd say brightly to me while I moaned in response, "No I don't, make it stop."
At the end there was no cool down, just a firm shake of her hand. I don't think she quite knew what I was about or how I got there or why I have kept training all these years. All she had to do to see why was look up at my kitchen and see the gnocchi in the process of being cooked and see that I only train to eat things like gnocchi. Oh and to gossip with Nina.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you do exercise and if so, why? Is it to eat more? Have you ever made your own gnocchi or pesto?
Gnocchi with Pistachio Almond Garlic Pesto
Recipes by Katrina Pizzini, pesto slightly adapted
Preparation time: 40 minutes plus cooling time
Cooking time: 1.5 hours
- 1.1kg/2.4lbs. Pontiac, Desiree or Dutch cream potatoes, washed thoroughly and with skin left on.
- 6 egg yolks (or 2 medium eggs + 1 yolk)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 heaped tablespoon flaky salt, crushed, or 2 level teaspoons of cooking salt
- 330g/11.7ozs. plain flour plus extra flour for rolling the gnocchi
Step 1 - Place the potatoes in a pan and add 2 cups of water. Bring the pan to the boil and immediately turn to simmer. Cook the potatoes until a sharp knife is easily inserted into the potato. Drain the potatoes then peel them while they are still warm. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer into a large bowl (the potato ricer incorporates air into the mixture and makes them nice and light). Cool completely.
Step 2 - In a small bowl mix the egg yolks, oil and salt together for a minute with a fork. Mix the egg into the potatoes. Gently fold the flour into the potatoes with a metal spoon then incorporate the rest of the flour by gently squeezing the potato mixture by hand (rough handling will push the air out and make the gnocchi tough).
Step 3 - On a lightly floured bench, pick up a small amount of gnocchi dough and shape it into a fat sausage with your fingers. Place this dough onto the bench and gently roll it by hand to the shape of a thin sausage. Then with a sharp, flat-bladed knife cut pieces off, the size of a small stone - approximately 1+1/2 cm.
You can use a gnocchi board to make the indents. Place the gnocchi onto a floured tray and continue rolling until the tray is full and the dough is finished. The gnocchi can be frozen at this stage.
Step 4 - Heat a stockpot of salted water to boiling and add the gnocchi, they will sink to the bottom of the pan. When the water comes to the boil again and the gnocchi have risen to the surface, turn the heat to simmer and cook the gnocchi for a further 2-3 minutes. With a slotted spoon remove the gnocchi, drain and place them in a serving bowl.
Step 5 - Cook the gnocchi just 1 tray at a time; the gnocchi will be soft so gentle handling is a must.
Note: If you are preparing the gnocchi to be eaten a few hours or days later, place the tray in the freezer as the gnocchi will absorb the flour on the tray and become sticky and impossible to handle. Place the frozen gnocchi into a freezer bag and seal. These can be kept frozen for 2 months.
Pistachio and Almond Garlic Pesto
- 1/2 cup pistachio nuts, roasted and chopped
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds, roasted and chopped
- 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled
- Pinch of salt
- 30 fresh basil leaves
- 100g/3.5ozs. good quality parmesan cheese or pecorino, shaved or grated
- 1 cup olive oil
- Juice from 1⁄2-1 lemon
Step 1 - Crush all ingredients except for lemon juice using a mortar and pestle or place them in a food processor and make a paste. Add lemon juice to taste.