Potato and Sage Gnocchi with Tomato and Pancetta

Hello Autumn – it’s hard to believe you are here, maybe I imagined the seasons would pause and wait for me while I laboured for months in my cookbook cave! Yes it is true I have written a second cookbook and just this week I have begun to emerge from that all consuming place of cookbook construction, to find the seasons and you have indeed carried on quite capably without me. 

It has been eighteen months in the process. Beginning with twelve months of recipe writing and testing. This culminated recently with five intense weeks of cooking, styling and photographing the chosen recipes. Just last week we completed the design phase and sent the file to pre-press and ultimately to print. Excitement and exhaustion all rolled into one, it’s not unlike pregnancy and childbirth in that I've had moments of elation and others of discomfort and frustration. But I'm imagining that when the new book arrives in my hands, I’ll forget the painful moments and smile thinking - how beautiful and worthwhile you are!

In the meantime I thought I’d share a little taste of what’s to come, one of my favourite recipes from the comfort food chapter of the cookbook. Oh and I should tell you (unlike a new baby where you don’t need to pick the name until it arrives) we do have the name...Our Delicious Adventure – Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel – I hope you like it!

This is the simplest way to make potato gnocchi, without the need for the tedious process of passing the cooked potato through a sieve or mouli. Bake, peel and mash, then utilise the lightness of spelt flour to create fluffy dough which results in tender gnocchi pieces.

serves 6
what you need
6 large potatoes (1.5kg) - Sebago or Desiree are ideal
1½ cups (225g) white spelt flour
¾ cup (60g) finely grated parmesan
1 tbsp sage, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp sea salt
3 egg yolks
1 tbsp olive oil
200g pancetta, finely sliced
½ cup sage leaves
250g cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp butter
extra virgin olive oil, grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper, to serve

what you do
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C (180°C fan forced). Scrub the potatoes and place on a baking tray. Bake in the oven for 1 hour or until flesh is soft and skins are crispy.
2. Cool slightly, then cut in half and scoop out the warm potato into a bowl. See the note below about using the skins. See the note below about using the skins.
3. Mash the potato, then mix in the flour, parmesan, sage, garlic, nutmeg, salt and egg yolks, with a wooden spoon, until a soft dough forms.
4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for a couple of minutes, adding extra flour if required, until smooth. Divide into four even pieces. Roll each piece into a long sausage shape about 60cm x 2cm, then cut into 2cm lengths. Use your thumb to roll each piece gently over a floured fork to form a dent in the back of each one and fork marks on the other side (this creates a textured surface, helping sauces to cling to cooked gnocchi). Place the gnocchi pieces onto a tray lined with lightly floured non-stick baking paper.
5. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil.
6. In a large frying pan warm the olive oil, add pancetta and cook on a high heat for 3-5 minutes until crispy. Add the sage leaves and tomatoes and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add butter, reduce heat to low and cook for a further 1 minute or until butter is golden brown.
7. Cook the gnocchi pieces in batches in the rapidly boiling water for 1 minute. Stir gently to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pot. Once the pieces begin to float to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon and place into a colander to drain.
8. Place the hot gnocchi into the pan of warmed sauce and gently toss to combine. Serve with freshly grated parmesan and pepper as desired.

Note: Cooked potato skins are delicious, eaten warm with a little butter and a sprinkle of sea salt. Gnocchi can be cooked ahead of time. Simply toss the cooked gnocchi in olive oil and place in the fridge or freezer until ready to reheat in boiling water.

V option: Substitute feta for pancetta. Sprinkle feta over finished dish.
GF option: Many people who have wheat allergies can tolerate spelt flour, use your own discretion.

© Recipe - Our Delicious Adventure - Recipes and Stories of Food and Travel by Jane Grover