It feels like forever since we ate this, but it’s only two weeks ago. This meal takes time to prepare, and time just isn’t something Sarah and I have had. We’ve been packing boxes – packing all Sarah’s teacups took ages – labelling them and shifting house. We ate this gnocchi for lunch in the sunroom of the old bungalow, before we were lost in the stress and confusion of moving. I held this perfect lunch in my mind as we were caught in what seemed like an endless string of takeout meals. This culminated with us sitting on the floor, late at night, delirious and laughing in an empty, dirty house with a dinner of a 2litre bottle of Coca Cola, salt and vinegar potato chips, jelly beans, snakes and strawberry-and-cream lollies. That sugary ‘meal’ really didn’t compare to soft parcels of gnocchi in a zesty, fresh sauce.
As well as the potatoes taking a good while to roast whole, on a bed of rock salt, the preparation of the ingredients is also labour intensive. The gnocchi should really be prepared with a friend, there is the grating of all the lemon zest, the potatoes and the parmesan. It is fun to chat and grate and chat and grate. And if feeding more than two, rolling the gnocchi dough from the bowl into bite sized balls, on the back of a fork takes a while too. The dough should still be warm here so that the gnocchi stays light and soft. But all this preparation is worth it, I promise. The flavours are simple and perfect.
The original recipe is made with radicchio, but we like to use sage instead, mostly because we got into the habit of it when we had a giant sage bush at our old Bowen Crescent address. I prefer the fragrance of the sage to the bitterness of the radicchio. Now that the teacups are unpacked, and meals that should only be consumed at a child’s party are over with, maybe Sarah can make gnocchi again and grate and chat into the evening.
This is an adapted recipe from chef George Biron.
For the gnocchi:
500g desiree potatoes
few handfuls of rock salt
200g pasta flour (continental flour)
zest of 3 lemons
1 egg yolk (from a large free-range egg)
salt and freshly ground pepper
100g finely grated pecorino romano (or other parmesan)
plus 200g extra parmesan for garnish
For the sauce:
zest and juice of 2 lemons
100g of grated parmesan
1 tbsp of freshly ground black pepper
large handful of sage
For the gnocchi:
Dry bake the potatoes over a bed of rock salt in a warm/hot oven. This will take around 45mins to an hour. The potatoes will be ready when they are shrinking away from their skin and are tender when poked with a knife. Let cool so they are still warm but you don’t burn yourself, peel and pass through a food mill or sieve. Mix all the gnocchi ingredients (i use my hands here, but you can use a wooden spoon too) gently until the mixture is forming a light dough. If it seems too dry and won’t work well, add another egg yolk (sometimes the smaller eggs will not be enough). Roll this very gently into long strips about 3cm in diameter. Cut into 3cm pieces and gently form each piece between your palms until it comes together. Roll each piece over a fork to create a few ridges to catch the sauce. This is a bit tricky to get the pressure right, but you’ll get the hang of it, its important for the ridges to be there though so the sauce sticks to the increased surface area. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Cook gnocchi in batches, removing with a slotted spoon as they float to the surface.
For the sauce:
Melt some butter in a pan and add the zest, juice, cheese and pepper. Add the sage and stir so the cheese melts and you get a combined creamy finish. Don’t cook for too long however as the sauce will separate (if this happens, don’t panic, it’ll still taste good – it just won’t look as pretty). Pour the sauce over the cooked gnocchi on your serving plates and garnish with more parmesan.