I am on a total Italian cuisine overdrive this week. My apologies to all the other excellent regional cuisines out there.
This dish is all about the gnocchi. It does take quite a bit of time and effort to make your own but in my opinion it's easier than making your own pasta, there's less that can go wrong, and you don't need any special equipment. Unless, like me, you're a bit useless at rolling ridged gnocchi with a fork and need a board like this (BTW I don't use a board despite being useless, I just leave the gnocchi as little pillows).
I've seen quite a few recipes for gluten-free gnocchi on the internet that use at least 3 different flours and starches; I find this completely superfluous. I make gluten-free gnocchi two ways, either with GF plain flour or with cornflour, and both work perfectly and taste just as light and soft. Trust me.
Ingredients to serve 2:
For the gnocchi:
500g of potatoes; use a variety that makes good mash such as Desiree or Maris Piper
100g of plain flour (or GF plain flour or the same amount of cornflour) and a little extra for dusting
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp of sea salt
For the sauce:
2 tins of chopped tomatoes with juice
1/2 a white onion, finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
6 rashers of smoked pancetta, chopped
6 tbsps of mascapone
2 tsps of oregano
Salt and pepper
The first step is to make the mashed potato which will be the base of the gnocchi. It's best to make a mash which is as dry as possible so that the gnocchi doesn't go soggy, so I find it best to bake the potatoes whole in the oven and then scoop out the insides, as opposed to boiling the potatoes. Using a ricer is also best for the texture of the gnocchi because it produces a smooth mash, but if you don't have one you can use a potato masher and then pass the potato through a sieve afterwards.
So bake the potatoes in the oven for about an hour at 180c/160c fan, then when they're done slice them in half (this will help with cooling) and set them aside to cool completely. When they're cool you can scoop out the middles and rice them into a large bowl.
To the potatoes add the beaten egg, oil, and salt and mix together. Then start adding the flour a little at a time, mixing together as you go, to form a soft dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead together for just a couple of minutes so that the surface feels smooth and soft. Be careful not to over-knead as the dough will become too stiff!
Now for the rolling! Take a handful of the dough and roll into a long rope (about 2cm in diameter) on a floured surface. Do this by starting to roll in the middle of the dough with two hands, then slowly move your hands apart whilst rolling to stretch the dough into a rope. Then cut the rope into inch-long pieces to form the gnocchi. At this point you can either leave them pillow-shaped or roll them on a fork or special board to create ridges. Set all the gnocchi aside on a floured board or tray to dry out for at least 30 minutes (but no more than 3 hours) before cooking.
For the sauce soften the onion and garlic in a frying or saute pan in a little olive oil on a medium heat, then turn the heat up to high and add the pancetta and fry until slightly crisp. Add the tomatoes, oregano, and seasoning and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is reduced and thick.
Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the gnocchi in two batches; this is best to stop them all sticking together. As they're fresh they'll only take about a minute to cook; when the gnocchi float to the top of the water they're done! Drain the gnocchi and add to the sauce. Mix the gnocchi into the sauce gently with a metal spoon, taking care that the gnocchi don't break up. At this point you should also preheat the oven to 200c/180c fan!
Pour the gnocchi and sauce into an oven dish. Make 6 little wells into the gnocchi, evenly spaced around the dish, and into each one spoon a blob of mascapone; during cooking these little blobs will melt into the gnocchi. Then to finish grate parmesan over the entire dish.
Place in the oven for 15-20 minutes for the parmesan and mascapone to melt. Serve hot in deep plates!