Italian cuisine may be fiercely regional, but gnocchi is traditional in both the north and the south. These nourishing little dumplings transverse the country, crossing the Po Valley – where butter becomes olive oil – and have long been loved all over. Gnocchi is most common, and most popular, in Veneto and Friuli in the north east, and Lazio and Abruzzo, which are sort of like gateways to the south.
Gnocchi’s origins, however, are most likely to be Lazio, as the preparation dates back to Roman times. Back then, pre-potatoes, it was made with semolina, much like a porridge, and bound with eggs. As potatoes spread quickly throughout Europe, they were incorporated into gnocchi, helping them become the sustaining starter we know today.
Gnocchi is a starter, by the way, despite its filling nature. The dish so readily lends itself to herbs, butters and cheeses, all of which make for an appetising start to fish and meat. Make this dish though and you’ll be hard-pressed not to devour a whole bowl. Maybe two bowls. Perhaps three on a roaring handover. Its majesty is in its simplicity; its warmth is in its lusciousness.
This recipe is from Elia Sebregondi, himself a Neopolitan, which only furthers gnocchi’s innate expansiveness. Sebregondi is the chef-owner of Officina 00, a restaurant and pasta workshop in Old Street, east London. It’s lovely. Do visit. In the meantime, here’s the chef ’s pumpkin gnocchi with brown butter and sage. Oh yes, very seasonal – we’ve a lot of pumpkin to get through…
Pumpkin gnocchi with gorgonzola, brown butter and sage
Ingredients (serves four):
500g delica pumpkin
50g coarse sea salt
400g red-skinned potatoes
140g 00 pasta flour
5g table salt
20g Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1 egg yolk A knob of butter
5-6 sage leaves
A handful of gorgonzola, crumbled, to serve
Preheat the oven to 200C (fan).
Lay the pumpkins and potatoes on a baking tray covered in a layer of coarse sea salt and bake for around 40-50 minutes, until cooked through.
Place in a large mixing bowl, discarding the skin, and smash into a purée with the flour, table salt, Parmesan and egg yolk.
Scoop into a medium-sized piping bag and pipe long sausage shapes, then cut these into gnocchi.
Cook the gnocchi in a pan of boiling salted water for a couple of minutes, until softened.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and sage in a frying pan, swirling the pan every now and again, until the butter is brown and the sage leaves are crisp.
Toss the gnocchi in the butter and stir in the gorgonzola just before serving.