To serve 4 people
- 1200g potatoes (Desirees, Royal blue, King Edward, Russets)
- 150g parmesan cheese blitz
- 7 egg yolks whisked
- 210g '00' flour
- 17g pink salt finely crushed
- 40g pine nuts
- 100g butter
- 6 sage leaves
- 1 clove garlic peeled and thinly sliced
- ¼ cup loosely packed parsley thinly sliced
- 200g pine mushrooms sliced
- 30ml olive oil
- Salt & cracked black pepper
“I grew up surrounded by accomplished home cooks; immersed in the old traditions of cooking,” he says.
"Food is what always brought our family together. I remember the family gathering in the kitchen to cook my nonna’s recipes. She put a lot of love in her recipes and rarely wrote any of them down. Nonna always said she could just feel when the pasta had the right amount of flour or egg. The kitchen was her domain and her passion. That’s why I decided to become a chef because food became my life, not my job."
Fittingly, his new Home Cooking series at Polperro's farmhouse sees him return to back-to-basics cooking. We chat with him about life away from the (commercial) kitchen and discover the secret to creating restaurant-quality gnocchi.
Who inspired this recipe?
As a child, our family would go over to my nonna’s every Sunday for lunch and we'd have potato gnocchi. She'd serve hers with a Neapolitan ragù made from meat, tomatoes, herbs, garlic and onion. The smell would fill the whole house.
Is there a trick to making the perfect gnocchi?
There are no special tricks — gnocchi is very simple to make. My advice: always read through a recipe and have an understanding of the ingredients and equipment needed before you start, and have everything weighed out in front of you and organised as the steps suggest. Last point, use the right potatoes and flour. Follow all processes and you will be on your way to making world-class gnocchi.
"You want to find a nice, floury potato because that’s going to give your gnocchi the best result."
If you don’t have pine mushrooms, what else could you sub in?
Any mushrooms are fine, but if you can get a hold of enoki mushrooms they would work perfectly too; they have a mild, delicate flavour that is complemented by a slight crunch.
And, if mushrooms are out of season?
You can’t go past fresh summer gnocchi with confit tomato, chorizo, basil, lemon, and buffalo mozzarella — it's making my mouth water just thinking about it!
What wine are we pairing with this dish?
I’d suggest Polperro’s Mill Hill Chardonnay 2017 which has characters of lemon and spice on the nose. The palate shows yellow peaches, rich creaminess, and acidity, well balanced with a beautiful floral finish. This cuts through the richness of the gnocchi and elevates the flavours.
What do you think it is about home cooking that has appealed to so many people during this time of ISO-lation?
It has been amazing to see so many of us experimenting in the home kitchens, sharing recipes and discoveries with our friends on social media. It has prompted a few trends, that’s for sure. The kitchen is a great place to ease your stress and anxiety, entertain the kids, connect with your culture and cook the recipes of family and friends that feel so far away.
What’s been keeping you busy outside the kitchen?
Reconnecting with my family and kids. As a chef you spend so much time at work, and you’re never home on weekends — you miss out so much on their growing lives.
Browned butter gnocchi with pine mushroom, sage and lemon
How to make it
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Wash the potatoes thoroughly with the skin on until they are free from dirt.
Lay out some pieces of foil on your bench and place the potatoes in the centre of the foil, season with pink salt and olive oil. Wrap them firmly in the foil and place on a baking tray cook for 45 minutes to one hour depending on the size of your potatoes.
Remove the foil and bake for a further 10 minutes to dry out the potato’s once dry peel them and pass them through a ricer into a large bowl. Allow to cool until almost at room temperature, at least 20 minutes.
Lightly flour a work surface. In a small bowl, mix the flour, parmesan with the salt. Add the egg to the potatoes and then add the flour mixture. Mix with your hands until the flour is moistened and the dough starts to clump together; the dough will still be a bit crumbly at this point. Gather the dough together and press it against the bottom of the bowl until you have a uniform mass. Transfer it to the floured surface and wash your hands.
Knead gently until the flour is fully incorporated and the dough is soft, smooth, and a little sticky, 30 seconds to 1 minute (don’t over mix it, or the gnocchi will be tough; the dough should feel very delicate). Move the dough to one side, making sure the surface underneath it is well floured. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel.
Cover two large rimmed baking sheets with parchment and sprinkle lightly with flour. Remove any lingering bits of dough from your work surface and lightly reflour the surface. Tear off a piece of dough about the size of a large lemon and put the towel back on the rest of the dough so it doesn’t dry out. With the palms of both hands, roll the dough piece on the floured surface into a rope about 3/4 inch in diameter.
With a sharp knife or a bench knife, cut the rope crosswise every 3/4 inch to make roughly 3/4-inch-square gnocchi. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on the parchment-covered baking sheets, making sure they don’t touch.
Repeat until you run out of dough, re-flouring the work surface as needed. When all the gnocchi have been cut and spread out on the baking sheets, sprinkle them with a little more flour.
Bring a medium-sized pot to the boil and add the gnocchi in several batches, stir, then wait for the gnocchi to float to the surface; once this happens, remove immediately. Put the gnocchi into some cold water with a few ice cubes to cool it down as quickly as possible this stops the gnocchi from overcooking and falling apart. Once fully cold, strain the gnocchi and put on a clean tea towel to dry the gnocchi this is a very important step because we need to fry them and any water will cause the gnocchi to stick to the pan and not caramelise.
Spread pine nuts in a single layer on a tray and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees until golden brown immediately transfer them to a plate.
Heat a pan until it just begins to smoke then add some oil, add a handful the gnocchi and cook until caramelised, set aside. Melt butter in a pan over medium heat. Continue cooking, watching closely, 4 to 5 minutes or until butter foams and turns golden brown, add the sage leaves then immediately remove from heat. Pour butter into small bowl, scraping bottom of pan to get all the brown bits.
Pour half of butter back into the pan, making sure brown bits remain in bowl. Heat pan to medium; add mushrooms. Sauté mushrooms until golden brown. Add garlic to mushrooms; cook, stirring often, about 1 minute or until fragrant. Season with pink salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to low. Stir cooked gnocchi into mushroom mixture. Add remaining browned butter including butter bits and lemon juice; stir. Top with toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.
Make ahead tips
You can serve freshly made gnocchi right away or within a couple of hours, or you can freeze it for later use. Put the gnocchi in the freezer while it’s still on the baking sheets and freeze until hard to the touch, at least one hour. Transfer to a large zip-lock bag or several smaller bags and freeze for up to two months. Cook frozen gnocchi in boiling water in two batches. Frozen gnocchi causes the temperature of the cooking water to drop, so it’ll fall apart before the water returns to a boil if there are too many in the pot.