Ingredients

FOR THE POTATO GNOCCHI
1.4kg medium Agria potatoes, scrubbed
1 teaspoon sea salt
1-2 egg yolks, beaten (optional)
150-300g plain flour
FOR THE BUTTERCUP PURÉE
1 small buttercup pumpkin (approx. 800g), peeled
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup mascarpone
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
TO FINISH
400g brussels sprouts
1 tablespoon olive oil
150g thick-cut pancetta, sliced
1 sprig rosemary
½ batch of gnocchi
parmesan or pecorino for serving
I get why people don’t want to make gnocchi: it does take a long time to make, and the vagueness of many recipes puts people off. But like most things, the more you make it the easier it gets and you get a feel for how the dough should co-operate. However, if it does discourage you, make this instead with bought gnocchi, as it really is a lovely combination of flavours. Good gnocchi relies on the dryness of the potato which can be variable depending on the time of the season and where they were grown. I tend to use Agria here, but Ilam Hardy, Fianna or Red Rascal should work well. I bake the potatoes rather than steam, microwave or boil as it helps to reduce the amount of moisture. The egg yolk is optional – it does make the mixture more stable to work, but the resulting gnocchi can be a little sturdier than those made without it. It’s important, too, not to overwork the dough. I usually start off with the minimum of flour then add more as necessary. I make a large batch that’s more than what you will need for one meal, but I free-flow freeze the rest for a meal at a later point.

Instructions

1.POTATO GNOCCHI
2.Heat the oven to 220°C.
3.Bake the potatoes for 1 hour or until cooked through.
4.When cool enough to handle, cut in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh (you should have just over 700-800g) and mash or put through a ricer or food mill, then spread out on a clean bench.
5.While the potato is still warm, sprinkle over the salt and egg yolk (if using) then sift over 150g flour.
6.Use a pastry scraper to cut the flour into the potato, just incorporating the flour without overworking the the dough.
7.Bring the dough together with your hands and form into a log, adding a dusting of flour if overly sticky.
8.Bring a pot of water to the boil and season generously, then reduce to a simmer.
9.Cut off a small piece of the dough (it will be very soft at this stage).
10.Put some of the remaining flour on a clean bench and roll out into a long sausage shape about 1½ -2cm thickness.
11.Cut into small lengths about 1cm long (if you wish, roll each piece down the back of fork tines and flick off – this isn’t completely necessary but the indents do give the sauce something to sit in).
12.Put onto a baking tray lined with baking paper.
13.Put a few of the gnocchi into the simmering, not boiling, water. They will sink to the bottom and rise to the top when cooked. If they break up, the rest of the batch will need more flour.
14.Re-roll and test again (believe me, it may be a faff but it is worth getting it right at this stage).
15.They are cooked when they rise and float on the top – give them another 30 seconds then remove with a slotted spoon or spider and plunge into iced water.
16.When you are satisfied that the dough has enough flour, go ahead and prepare the remaining gnocchi.
17.You can freeze the uncooked gnocchi at this point then cook from frozen at a later date; but beware, to my mind they never seem as stable. Simply freeze on the lined baking tray and when frozen put into a ziplock bag. They will take an extra minute or two to cook.
18.I usually prefer to cook the gnocchi, then plunge into icy water, drain and toss with olive oil.
19.Refrigerate until needed (ideally no more than 1-2 days), then reheat for a minute or so in simmering water (or by frying instead) before tossing with a sauce.
20.BUTTERCUP PURÉE
21.Cut the pumpkin into chunks and put into a saucepan with the stock and garlic and cook until tender, around 10-15 minutes.
22.Drain, but reserve the stock.
23.Purée in a blender adding as much stock as required (this can be done ahead and gently reheated).
24.Add the mascarpone and nutmeg and season to taste.
25.This can be frozen at this stage.
26.TO FINISH
27.Trim the tough outer leaves from the brussels sprouts and discard.
28.Then start pulling the leaves off, trimming the base as necessary to release a few more (a swift whack with the side of your knife can also help to loosen the leaves).
29.If this feels like too much work, then simply shred the brussels finely.
30.Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the pancetta and the rosemary sprig and cook gently until crisp.
31.Remove and discard the rosemary, and remove and set aside the pancetta.
32.Add the brussels leaves to the pan and fry until just bite tender.
33.Cook the gnocchi as directed above, drain and add to the pan and toss gently.
34.Put a spoonful of pumpkin purée on warmed plates or bowls, top with the gnocchi, pancetta and brussels.
35.Top with grated pecorino or parmesan.

Recipes & food styling Ginny Grant / Photography Aaron McLean /Styling Jessica Hemmings

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