Choosing the right potato is key for making light and fluffy gnocchi. I tend to go for an all-rounder like Sebago and Desiree, or one that leans a little more waxy, like Nicola. Russets and Maris Piper are a good floury potato for gnocchi, too, but are better baked whole than boiled.
1kg Sebago or Desiree potatoes, left whole, skin on
1 tsp sea salt
200-250g tipo 00 flour*, plus extra for rolling
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 eschalots (French shallots), finely chopped
3 parsley stalks
4 (350g) Italian-style pork sausages, casings removed
150ml dry white wine
680g tomato passata
2 fresh bay leaves
sea salt and pepper
grated parmesan or pecorino, to serve
1. For the sausage ragu, warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low-medium heat. Add the eschalots, parsley stalks and a good pinch of salt and gently cook until they are soft and just beginning to colour (about 10-12 minutes), stirring occasionally.
2. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the sausage meat to the pan, breaking it up with the back of a spoon. Cook the sausage meat until golden on all sides, then pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to lift any caramelised bits.
3. Pour in the passata, along with 200ml of water and scrunch in the bay leaves. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low-medium and gently simmer the sauce for 30-40 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, to make the gnocchi, prepare two trays lined with baking paper. Place the potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Season the water with salt and bring to the boil, cooking them for 15-20 minutes or until very tender. Try not to pierce the potatoes' skin during cooking as they will absorb water. Drain and allow the potatoes to dry out in a colander for 5 minutes. As soon as the potatoes are cool enough to handle, rub off the skins.
5. Lightly flour your workbench and pass the potatoes through a potato ricer directly onto the floured bench. (If you don't have a ricer, use a fork or a potato masher, aiming for a lump-free mash.) When cool enough to handle, but still warm, add the egg and salt and mix with your fingertips to combine. Begin adding the flour, a little at a time, using your hands to bring the dough together. You may not need all of the flour. Don't overwork the dough; just knead it with a light hand, enough to shape into a large ball or mound.
6. Shape the gnocchi by cutting a piece of dough from the ball and rolling it into a long rope about 1.5cm in diameter. Cut the rope into 2cm pieces and dust with flour. Transfer to the prepared trays, making sure the pieces don't touch. Repeat with the remaining dough.
7. Cook the gnocchi in batches in boiling salted water. Avoid having the water boiling ferociously as the gnocchi can fall apart. When the gnocchi rise to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon and transfer directly to the pan with the sauce. If the sauce becomes too dry, ladle in some of the gnocchi cooking water. Gently stir to coat the gnocchi and remove the parsley stalks and bay leaves, if desired. Serve with a generous sprinkling of parmesan or pecorino.
*Tipo 00 flour is a finely milled flour available from supermarkets and specialty Italian grocers.