One thing that immediately strikes one on arriving in Italy is that everyone is beautiful. And nobody is fat. How is this possible, in the land of gnocchi (not to mention dried pasta, and pizza, and ice cream, and every other damn thing)?
Well, the answer, as you might expect, is that, A/ they eat small portions of pasta as a primo, and B/They take a lot of excercise, much of it in the shape of dodging Vespas and waving their hands.
This quantity makes a starter for four. You don´t want to gorge on gnocchi, just to have a small bowlful and then go on to something else. Just make sure that the something else is wonderful, because these babies are a pretty hard act to follow.
As taught by Fabrizia at the Anna Tasca Lanza school, they seem a little bit intimidating. For starters, the day begins with a morning trip to see the ricotta being made. A sheep farm on a hillside, bees buzzing, almond trees in bloom, sheep and lambs milling about, and, once inside, the shepherd, in pristine white, stirring a cauldron of whey and milk. Milked that very morning.
A spoonful of that stuff will quickly convince you that nothing you have ever had before is ricotta, if this thing is ricotta. And these gnocchi are mostly ricotta, so it seems a no go.
Well, despair not. I have made these with the so-called sad supermarket ricotta available in Aberdeen, and I can assure you, they are beautiful.
You can also try them with requesón, as made with this recipe. It´s not ricotta, but it´s a fresh cheese that everyone is calling ricotta, so why not?
So anyway, the way to make them is to mix 250 gr. of ricotta with an egg, two tablespoonfuls of grated Parmiggiano and 3 tablespoonfuls of plain flour. This makes a paste that looks delicious but you doubt will ever hold any shape. But it will. I am very clumsy, and my sous chef is three years old, and yet we make very passable gnocchi.
Now put a big pan of water to boil.
The thing to do is sprinkle your work surface with flour, and put a spoonful of the mixture on it. Roll it to make a long shape, then cut it into gnocchi. Lay them aside on a floured clean kitchen towel, and work quickly to make the rest.
Then put them gently into the boiling water and wait for them to start floating up. When you can fish them out from the surface, they´re cooked.
Douse with herbed butter, or tomato sauce, and eat straight away.
If it seems to you that I have been a bit cavalier in my explanation, let me point you towards Nicky and Oliver´s blog. They have photos, and you can see the whole process very well. Or, take a look at Béa´s. Not that her food is ever less than spectacularly pretty, but it might help.
I promise, it´s very easy and much quicker than you´d think.