Chef of the hour
Tired of fast, soulless frozen meals? Real men cook. Here’s a recipe for homemade gnocchi with pesto that will transport you to Italy in two bites.
Text: mariano tacchi @playeroycasual | photos: araceli paz @aracelipaz
Thanks to Restaurant La Finestra – www.lafinestra.cl
I come from a family that makes it impossible for me to declare things like “it’s just like my grandmother used to make” or “this is my mother’s recipe,” because neither of them was a whiz in the kitchen. It wasn’t their fault: they just didn’t have time. Both of them worked outside the home, so my culinary training came from local eateries and food channels.
But I do have some Italian blood running through my veins, and it comes alive every time I make gnocchi. The recipe came from my grandfather, an immigrant from the region of Liguria who, like many others, came to this continent to escape the ravages of WWII.
He handed down the recipe to me, dramatically, on his deathbed. Where it came from originally, I don’t know. Maybe he got it from his grandmother, maybe he won it in a knife fight, or maybe he stole it from a chef who swore revenge. He was proud of this dish and considered it a measure of his manhood. A triumph of man over kitchen. That’s how it came into my hands, and that’s the spirit in which I want pass it on.
To honor my roots, I’m pleased to share this recipe of unknown origin so our readers can enjoy a plate of glorious gnocchi with pesto.
|For the gnocchi
1 kilo potatoes
400 grams flour
1 large egg
Salt & pepper
|For the pesto
A large bunch of fresh basil
1 large garlic clove
1 ½ cup olive oil
Walnuts or almonds
Grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper
- Bring water to a boil in a large pot and add a spoonful of salt along with the unpeeled potatoes. Boil for 10 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are done (when they can be easily pierced with a knife).
- Place the walnuts or almonds – or both, if you’re feeling a little adventurous – some Parmesan cheese and a clove of garlic in a food processor. Process, then add in the basil and the olive oil and process until all ingredients are fully incorporated. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Drain the potatoes, peel them and pass them through a ricer.
- Turn the potatoes out on a clean floured work surface and make a volcano shape. Break the egg into the “crater” and add a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together gently with a fork.
- Knead the potatoes and the egg together, gently at first then more forcefully until the mixture becomes a paste.
- When the ingredients are well mixed, gradually incorporate the flour, kneading well. Begin with 100 grams and add up to 300 grams. If the mixture is still too wet at this point, add the rest of the flour.
- When the dough is ready, divide it into four equal parts. Now comes the fun: shaping the gnocchi. Slice into strips and then cut into little “pillow” shapes (no larger than your thumb). To make this process easier, dust the edge of the knife with flour.
- Be creative: give the gnocchi interesting shapes or just leave them as they are. Dust with flour and bring to the stove.
- Boil more water, adding a spoonful of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Drop the gnocchi in the boiling water. They’re ready as soon as they float to the top. Remove them from the water. Now, let’s get back to the pesto.
- Add a couple of generous spoonsful of pesto and a spoonful of cream to a saucepan. Stir until blended, then add some gnocchi into the pan and fold together. If the sauce is very thick, add a bit of the pasta water and re-heat. in