No sooner than when I rejoiced over the advent of spring that winter comes back to bite us in the you-know-what. Winter weather has returned and so have the rains. I don’t know if this is Sydney’s way of welcoming the dignitaries arriving for the APEC conference, but it sure hope it doesn’t stick around for too long. I was just enjoying the sunshine and warm weather, and I could smell summer was just around the corner. Now it feels like summer is around the corner and down five more blocks away. What is with this erratic weather?
If you wanted to conjure up what the weather has been like, well it’s the kind that makes you want to stay in your pyjamas all day, the kind that makes you crave something warm for your belly and it’s the kind of weather that forces you indoors. Be that as it may, there is no need to fret. I have something sunny and light to wash away those cold weather blues.
Gnocchi- it probably isn’t the first thing you would think of when you cite being “light” as one of its qualities, it’s more words like stodgy, doughy, indigestible that come to mind. I know because I have never met a gnocchi that I have liked, they have always been too filling, too starchy and it seems like all it does is expand in your stomach after you have eaten just a few morsels. I never order gnocchi at restaurants because I just never see the point, one portion leaves you too stuffed to taste anything else- which for me means no dessert- which I just cannot abide with.
So what say you is the solution to heavy humdrum gnocchi? Add a little ricotta and change it’s colour; that’s what I did and it worked for me.
From dreading gnocchi to actually enjoying it, it was quite a reversal of opinion after tasting these. The key is the ricotta, it allows for a lighter fluffier dough as opposed to a typical gnocchi which is usually made only of flour and potatoes. It's amazing how moreish this gnocchi actually is, I never imagined myself craving another helping.
The recipe yields an enormous amount of gnocchi that I didn't know what to do with it all at first. I digressed from the initial urge to just boil them in a pot, and wanted to try something different. I have seen other ways of cooking gnocchi other than boiling, so here are the two ways that I chose to cook them- pan fired and baked. In both methods, the gnocchi develops a thin crispy outer layer while the inside remains steamy and fluffy.
Both ways contain mushrooms and Gorgonzola, leftovers from what I didn't put on the pizzas. You might be thinking that I must have wheels and wheels of Gorgonzola lying around as that it has made an appearance in some of the non-dessert items I have made lately. Well, no I don't hoard huge amounts of the stuff, I just know how to make a wedge of Gorgonzola last a really long time. The first version is the pan-friend gnocchi with sage butter, mushrooms and Gorgonzola sauce and the second one is a baked gnocchi with tomato sauce.
For the first batch all you need to do is- heat up a tablespoon of butter in a medium frypan and fry up some sage leaves just enough to infuse the butter with it's aroma. Then shallow fry the gnocchi until it is brown on both sides. Remove gnocchi from frypan and transfer to a paper towel to drain. With the heat still on, add the mushrooms (I used oyster) and fry them up until they are soft, you might want to add a little bit more butter at this point as the mushrooms will soak it up quickly. When the mushrooms are almost cooked, add a few cubes of Gorgonzola and melt. Plate the gnocchi up and place the mushroom sand sauce the gnocchi.
For the baked gnocchi, you will need to prepare a tomato sauce before hand (recipe below). Then preheat an oven at 180°C. Line a baking dish with gnocchi and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes or until the gnocchi begins to brown and form a skin. Then add some chopped mushrooms. Pour the tomato sauce over the gnocchi, ensuring that the whole dish is covered in the sauce. Lodge a few cubes of Gorgonzola into the sauce and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Which way did I prefer? To be honest I couldn't choose between them. The pan fried version with the sage was absolutely divine, the sage and Gorgonzola perfect compliments to each other and the beautifully crusted gnocchi was fun to bite into. While the baked version made for a perfectly smooth and creamy rendition of gnocchi. A far cry from the disasters I have tasted before and exactly what I needed on a dreary day like to day.
Basic Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe
Adapted from epicurious.com
2 medium sized sweet potatoes, washed and pierced all over with a fork
250g fresh ricotta cheese
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp sea salt
2 cups all purpose flour
Preheat oven to 200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place sweet potatoes on tray and bake for 45 minutes to an hour; until the skin is browned and the flesh is soft.
Remove sweet potatoes from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
Cut potatoes in half and use a spoon to scrape out the flesh and mash.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the sweet potato flesh, ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, salt, egg and flour.
Combine the ingredients until a soft dough forms.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Turn dough out onto floured surface; divide into 6 equal pieces.
Rolling between palms and floured work surface, form each piece into a long rope 2.5cm in diameter, sprinkling with flour as needed if sticky.
Cut each rope into pieces about 1cm wide.
Roll each piece over tines of fork to indent.
Transfer to baking sheet.
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
sea salt, to taste
400g can of chopped tomatoes
In a saucepan heat up olive oil over medium heat.
Fry garlic and dried chilli flakes for two minutes, add salt.
Pour in tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes or until the sauce has thickened and become a deeper red.