Leftover Loveliness: Transforming Mashed Potato into Gnocchi
Gnocchi: an Italian staple, and immensely satisfying to make. Perhaps it’s just me, but rolling little balls of squishy soft dough into ridged ovals before plopping the lot into boiling water is immensely relaxing. It’s basically Play-doh for adults… that you get to eat.
To be honest, I had initially written off gnocchi as hard, dense and tasteless, such was my repeated experience with supermarket offerings. Fresh homemade gnocchi is a different thing entirely – beautifully light and delicate, and sublime paired with a classic tomato sauce, or simply pan fried in butter and seasoned with pepper, parmesan and basil.
These little dumplings, often ridged, are commonly made from potato, semolina, flour, or cheese and are incredibly versatile. My first experience of fresh potato gnocchi was ‘Al forno’ – finished in the oven with sage butter and parmesan. Incredible. I have been a convert since, so if you’ve never tried fresh gnocchi before, I want you to share my joy!
The gnocchi my wife and I have made previously has been with freshly boiled potatoes, left to dry and cool before adding flour to make the dumplings. However, given the large quantity of leftover mashed potato in our fridge, I thought I’d attempt to turn this rather bland leftover ingredient into one of my favourite dishes. Read on to find out how it went!
800g mashed potatoes
200 grams ‘00’ flour (or plain flour)
Salt and pepper to taste
If cooking from fresh, use 800g boiled potatoes and leave for 10-15 mins to air dry to allow surface water to evaporate (this in turn reduces the amount of flour required to obtain a workable dough). Alternatively, boil the potatoes whole, with skin on, and peel and mash/rice once cooked.
The egg can be omitted – just remember to reduce the amount of flour accordingly as you’ll be starting with less liquid in the potato mix. The gnocchi will turn out a little lighter and with less ‘bite’ without the egg, but the dough may be a bit trickier to work.
Flour – ‘00’ you have it, but plain flour works perfectly well.
Add the potatoes, half the flour, and egg to a bowl and mix with a wooden spoon.
Tip out onto a floured pastry board or surface, and gradually work in the rest of the flour.
Knead as little as possible to prevent the dough becoming claggy. Aim for a smooth, soft dough that isn’t too sticky.
I find that with this quantity, it’s easiest to divide the dough into 8 (roughly) equal balls.
Dust your board lightly with flour, roll one ball into a finger-width sausage and cut into squares all the way along. For reference, mine in the pictures were about 1.5cm square – but this isn’t a science so variations are welcome!
it’s not a requirement, but adding ridges to your gnocchi a) increases their surface area to trap delicious sauce in, and b) looks pretty! If you don’t have the time, skip straight to the cooking stage. And so, onward to the meditative mindfulness that is gnocchi rolling. Using your thumb, gently push and roll the gnocchi down your gnocchi board or back of a fork to get the classic shape:
Place on a drying rack, or floured tray or plate. Repeat until your dough is all used up.
Bring a large pot of salted boiling water up to the boil, and cook in batches. Cooking time recommendations vary, but I find that waiting for the gnocchi to rise to the top, then adding another minute works well. Drain, and they’re ready for the finale.
Top with a sauce of your choice, fry with butter and herbs, or oven bake once sprinkled with cheese.
Cooked gnocchi will keep in the fridge for a day. If you refrigerate gnocchi before cooking, you might find it turns brown overnight, rather like a cut apple. So best to cook before storing.
These were simply pan fried in browned butter, and topped with pepper, freshly grated parmesan and basil. I won’t lie… it tasted delicious. Comparing it with gnocchi made with fresh potato rather than leftover mash, I would say that it had a little more ‘bite’ than the original, but otherwise remained super tasty. And makes a dinner so much more appetizing than a despondent mound of microwaved mash potato!
So a big endorsement from me, and definitely a recipe I’ll repeat in the future. Let us know your own experiences or comments below!