The Silver Spoon is something of a legend in Italy – “the one cookery book every Italian passes on to their children”, it claims proudly. First published in 1950 and reworked over the years, it was translated into English for the first time in 2005. It’s huge – 1263 pages and over two thousand unbelievably detailed and varied recipes.
Many’s the time I flipped through its leaves in bookshops, but I’d never thought of picking it up for myself (not least as its great weight would probably bend my bike basket out of shape!) So, when I unwrapped a copy on Christmas Day, thanks to my lovely and generous mam, I was chuffed to bits. And totally stumped as to where I would start. Cue many nights poring over it in bed (yes, I read cookbooks in bed, doesn’t everyone?) before finally settling on gnocchi, which have a ten-page section of the book all to themselves.
I should preface this recipe by mentioning that my kitchen was an unholy mess by the time I’d finished – flour everywhere, and not a square inch of workspace unused. With four-and-a-bit servings of pillowy potatoey dumplings to show for it all, though, I’m calling a cautious victory.
Potato gnocchi, from The Silver Spoon
Ingredients for four dinner-sized servings, plus one lunch
1kg potatoes (I used Roosters – I think any floury spud would work)
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 medium-large egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
What to do:
Peel, chop and boil the potatoes until tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Mash thoroughly while still hot (no lumps!) Let the mash cool a bit.
Add the flour, egg and salt and stir to combine. Knead the mixture to form a soft dough – I needed to add a tiny bit more flour at this stage as things weren’t combining properly, but too much flour will dry out the gnocchi.
Pick off fist-sized portions of the dough and roll each into a long sausage about 1.5cm across. (This is the fun bit – like playdough!) Cut into 2cm lengths and gently score across each gnocco with a fork.
Transfer to a clean board or tea towel dusted with flour and repeat until you have used up all the dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and add the gnocchi, a dozen or so at a time, removing with a slotted spoon as they rise to the surface. It will take fifteen minutes or so to cook this quantity of gnocchi – the cooked gnocchi can be kept in a warmed covered serving dish.
Once cooked, serve immediately with the sauce of your choice. I had grand plans to do something with bacon and chilli, but after eating a huge (and free!) three-meat sandwich for lunch thanks to The Butcher Grill, I went for a simple tomato sauce instead, made with two shallots, five ripe tomatoes, a glug of balsamic and one of white wine, and some dried Italian herbs. And lashings of Parmesan on top, of course.