I’d forgotten how good fresh pasta is. It was a recent visit to my Great Grandmother’s that swayed me back to the virtues of making pasta from scratch. When we gather as a family together to eat at her home, my Great Grandmother almost always makes gnocchi. We hanker for her gnocchi whenever we come over for dinner and fervently hope there might be leftover gnocchi to take home with us to freeze for another day.
The gnocchi recipe my Great Grandmother taught us is made up of boiled starchy potatoes combined with flour and an egg. She doesn’t measure the ingredients (Italian Grandmothers never do) – it’s all by taste and touch.
She turns 90 years old this month and continues to astound me with her strength and resilience. She is a tiny woman who laughs easily and loves to cook and feed the people she loves. Her door is always open to family and friends. Side-by-side in her kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, we made the kind of gnocchi she has been making for years.
We were careful not to over-knead the dough to avoid tough and chewy gnocchi. We rolled out the dough into long thin ropes then cut small pieces to roll on the gnocchi boards or forks. Everything was lightly floured to avoid the dough sticking and we worked fairly quickly. The process doesn’t take kindly to interruptions because the longer the dough sits, the softer and stickier it gets.
We’ve since tweaked her version a little. We bake the potatoes whole in the oven for an hour instead of boiling them. We also use a lot less flour – just enough doppio zero to form a smooth, slightly sticky but workable ball of dough. The secret (we’ve come to realise) to light and delicate potato pillows, is getting the potatoes as dry as possible and then little flour is needed. We’ll be making gnocchi our own way but thinking of my Great Grandmother – it’s dishes like these that memories are kept.