My Latest Obsession: Gnocchi

I didn’t understand the point of gnocchi until I made it for myself. Shop bought gnocchi are dense little flavourless lumps that serve mostly to clag up a decent tomato sauce. But the very first batch of gnocchi that I made for myself were delicate, yielding, melty pillows of soft warm flavour. Obsession begins.

Although they’re treated like pasta, gnocchi are actually three quarters potato. My starting point for learning gnocchi, as with many other recipes, was Felicity Cloake’s recipe for the perfect gnocchi. After a couple of tries I swapped her method of baking the potatoes in favour of just boiling them. I also added a step of blanching the gnocchi in batches as I made them, which stops them from sticking together and keeps them in perfect condition until ready to serve. During the Autumn run I paired the basic gnocchi with ratatouille as well as with the umami paysan, a rich and hearty vegetarian stew which I call the meatiest thing you’ve ever had without meat.

One night, just as an experiment, I made up a batch of gnocchi with sweet potato instead of Maris Pipers. I was delighted by the new, more complex, almost fruity flavours and began serving them immediately. When mixed with the classic, I found the orange and white striking off of each other had a visual effect that I found quite charming. Then one night, during an emergency gnocchi shortage, I made my final cheque of the evening by adding flour to a celeriac puree I had on the menu for another dish and quickly rolling out a portion of gnocchi and blanching them to order. The result was intriguing and successful enough that I became curious as to just how many things I could make gnocchi out of. Parsnip, swede and butternut squash soon followed, with varying degrees of success. Obession deepens.

Loving the contrast that the white potato gnocchi and the vivid orange sweet potato gnocchi had on the plate, my mind started to wander to more exotic ideas. Could I get a bowl of beautiful little gem-like pillows in every shade? More experiments followed: pea gnocchi (hard to work the dough but beautiful colour and flavour); red cabbage gnocchi (no); beetroot gnocchi (boil in a beetroot liquor for even more vivid colour); caramelised onion gnocchi (doesn’t work on its own but can be flecked through a plain potato gnocchi for a “cookies-and-cream” look); red pepper and pumpkin (wow!), turmeric and cauliflower (too bitter); squid ink (VERY striking).

My obsession concludes with 7 different flavours of gnocchi in 7 different colours. Look out for a version of this “Rainbow Gem Gnocchi” dish at the February Supper Club menu at Smoke and Thyme.

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