There is a kind of comfort to be found in making gnocchi. Roasting the potatoes, kneading the dough, rolling out the little ridged dumplings and finally immersing them in a rich butter or cheese-based sauce is the stuff of epicurean delight. I recently had the pleasure of experiencing an afternoon of pasta-making with the excuse of developing a recipe and shooting a series of stills and a video for Castello cheese.
Opting to make a simple pan-fried gnocchi with a creamy Camembert sauce, I added fresh sage as I find its earthy flavours cut through the richness of the cheese, creating a delicious combination of tastes. Gnocchi itself is easy enough to make, but I have found that the usual method of boiling or steaming the potatoes to result in a lumpier dough and a heavier dumpling. This is because boiling or steaming still allows water to seep into the potato, no matter how long one leaves the cooked flesh to dry out. I prefer to roast off my spuds on a bed of rock salt, as the salt draws out the moisture from the potatoes, leaving the makings for a perfect gnocchi dough. I also prefer to cook my gnocchi in boiling salted water for about a minute, before giving them a swift browning in a hot pan. This adds a lovely flavour not dissimilar to a hash brown – the gnocchi look great too.
As for the sauce, when using a white mould cheese like Camembert its a good idea to melt the cheese into the cream, infuse the sauce with sage and garlic and then blitz it up in a liquidiser for an extra creamy finish. I like to use my Nutribullet for an extra smooth result but any immersion blender should work just as well.
Gnocchi with Creamy Castello Camembert Sauce
Prep time: 1.5 hours / Cook time: 25 mins / Serves: 4
You will need:
- 2 to 3 floury potatoes – about 500g (Maris Piper works well)
- 1kg rock salt
- 50ml olive oil
- 125g “00” extra fine flour, plus plenty extra for dusting
- 15ml salted butter, for frying
- Fine salt and black pepper
For the sauce:
- A wheel of Castello Camembert
- 500ml fresh cream
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled
- 5 to 6 large fresh sage leaves
- Coarse ground sea salt and black pepper
Preheat your oven to 220°C. Prick the potatoes all over and rub with a little of the olive oil. Scatter the rock salt across a baking sheet and nestle the potatoes on top. Bake for an hour or until a knife runs cleanly through the potato.
Halve each potato and scoop out the flesh – I keep the skins, sprinkle them with more olive oil and crisp them up in the oven to have with guacamole. Working in stages, push the potato through a ricer (mashing works but may leave you with a denser gnocchi) until all the flesh has been riced. Beat the egg and add to the potato, along with the flour and the salt and pepper. Mix to combine then turn out the dough on a floured surface and knead until the dough is dry to the touch without being crumbly. Fashion the dough into a long snake and slice into even (about 2cm) pieces. Using floured hands, roll each piece into a ball then gently roll along the floured tines of a fork to get that classic gnocchi shape.
When you’ve fashioned all the dough into gnocchi, bring a pot of water to the boil with a shake of salt and splash of olive oil to prevent the gnocchi from sticking together. Boil the gnocchi in batches for about a minute per batch then drain and set aside. Heat up the butter in a pan and fry the gnocchi over medium heat until gently browned on either side. Keep warm while you make the sauce.
In a saucepan, heat up the cream, garlic clove, sage and Castello Camembert together until the cheese is soft and melted. Remove the sage leaves and garlic clove, or if you’re anything like me, leave them in and blitz them up into the sauce. Pour the sauce into a liquidiser and blend until smooth. Return the sauce to the pan and gently reheat.
Plate the gnocchi up into four heated bowls and ladle over the creamy Camembert sauce. Garnish with a crack of black pepper and salt (if required) and serve immediately.
You can also serve this recipe as a snack by dishing up on to a warmed platter and serving the sauce alongside for guests to dip the dumplings into.