Much quicker than making other types of fresh pasta, gnocchi are a dawdle. They are delicious with loads of sauces, from rich and meaty to simple and light, like butter and fresh sage. This sauce is a perfect half way house that will whet your appetite as a starter, and satisfy anyone as a main. Enjoy!
This week as part of my regular work trips to Edinburgh, I paid a visit to one of my favourite cafes in the Scottish capital – The Roamin’ Nose. The first time I came across this place I had an inkling, given the pun, that Italian influences were going to feature somewhere. With its quaint pastel coloured decor, and an intriguing fascination with pictures of Bill Murray, influences from the Mediterranean peninsula aren’t obvious at first glance.
Sit down and flick through the clipboard menu, however, and you’ll see that you’ve stumbled across a special place. The food here is simple and delicious. By all means go for the standard staples, like soups and sandwiches or the roamin’ burger, you won’t be disappointed. However, having tasted a few of the pasta dishes inspired by the Sardinian born chef and owner, you’d be missing a trick.
I didn’t read beyond the gnocchi. The simple and light Sardinian gnocchi, the zing of fennel in the Italian sausage and the sweetness of the bourbon and onions, made for a great lunchtime treat.
On leaving The Roamin’ Nose, I decided that the lunch I’d just scoffed would be one to recreate. Instead of Sardinian Malloreddus, I was going to use the more familiar homemade potato gnocchi used in northern Italy; the ones I would help my “Nonna” Graziella (Gra) make when I was a toddler. I called up Gra, and reminded myself of the ratio of potatoes to flour. I think many of the recipes for ‘Gnocchi di patate’ that you can find online go overboard on flour, making them too doughy.
Gra’s husband, Rino, had just brought home some freshly picked chard which was going to feature in the Ligurian Panzarotti she was in the middle of making. After a quick catch up, and armed with Gra’s recipe, I had everything I needed to get to work.
So here we go, a hearty dish of fluffy gnocchi pillows, inspired by one of my favourite cafes in Edinburgh.
Prep time 40 mins; cook time 15 mins
1kg maris piper potatoes
200g ’00’ or plain white flour
1 tsp fine salt
400g Italian sausage, casings removed
200g of shallots
2 cloves of garlic
50ml of bourbon
2 tbsp of single cream
2 tsp fresh tarragon, chopped
a good grating of fresh parmesan
For the gnocchi, boil the whole potatoes as if you were making mashed potato. Drain, peel and give them a good mash ideally with a potato ricer. Mix the flour and warm mash on a clean surface, making sure all the flour is combined. Make a well in the middle of the soft crumbly mix, add the egg and salt. Kneed together, breaking down any potato lumps until you have a smooth and soft dough.
Divide the dough into palm sized balls and roll each on a lightly floured surface until you have long bread stick-like strands of dough. With a sharp knife chop each strand into 3-4cm dough ‘pillows’. Roll each pillow down the prongs of a fork to give the gnocchi their signature look. Keep them to one side on a lightly floured chopping board.
Add a pinch of salt to a large pan of water and bring to the boil.
Place the shallots in a heat proof bowl, pouring over a kettle of boiling water. Leave to soak for 3 minutes until the outer skin has softened. Peel off the outer skin and roughly chop the shallots.
In a large frying pan heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, half the tarragon, and garlic, cooking over a low heat until the onions are translucent and softened. Crumble in the sausage meat and lightly brown over a medium heat, stirring gently. Turn up the heat and add the bourbon, mixing well to cook off the alcohol. This should turn the mixture into a creamy consistency. Over a low heat stir in the cream, add the remaining tarragon and season.
Lower the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for around 3 minutes. As the gnocchi float, lift them out with a draining spoon and tip into the frying pan containing the sauce. Give it all of a good stir and plate up with a good covering of freshly grated parmesan.
Tuck in and buon appetito!
I’d love to hear what you think – please leave me questions, comments or thoughts below!