Alessandro Bressi started his culinary life in his grandmother’s kitchen, like most Italian children. He spent his weekends forking patterns into her gnocchi.
“That is how we grow, watching them cooking and helping them cooking. Though now, just like everywhere in the cities, people have less time. Children are not learning the craft anymore,” he says.
Alessandro arrived in New Zealand 10 years ago and settled in the Waikato. He only intended staying a year, to have a break from the hectic pace of Rome, but he loved it so much he stayed.
“It’s the happiness of the people you can feel walking along the street here.”
He can be found most Tuesdays kneading gnocchi dough in Caffé Centrale’s kitchen, in Hamilton, reminded of his nonna’s teaching.
He shared his gnocchi recipe with us.
Gnocchi is surprisingly easy to make, you just have to give it some love, says Alessandro.
All it takes is potatoes, olive oil and flour. Be careful not to overwork the dough, or add too much flour, or your gnocchi can become chewy. It’s important to use Agria potatoes as they are nice and fluffy when mashed.
Prep time: 45 mins
Cook time: 5 minutes
1 kilogram of Agria potatoes.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 1/2 cups of flour, plus more for rolling
Scrub potatoes with the skin on. Place whole potatoes with their skins on in well salted water and cook until soft.
Once cooked drain in a colander and rub off the skins. Push potatoes through a potato ricer for best results, or you can mash them.
Flour your bench and once the mash has cooled slightly, pour onto mound on a floured bench making a hollow for the olive oil. Add olive oil to the hollow, pour over 1 cup of the flour and start kneading. Add further flour if needed, until the mixture comes together into a dough.
Roll out into a log about 2cm thick and cut into 2cm pieces. You can freeze the gnocchi between layers of baking paper at this point. If you’re cooking now, bring a large pot of well salted water to the boil. Add gnocchi to the boiling water. When it rises to the surface you know it is cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a lightly oiled medium sized baking dish.
This recipe will make enough gnocchi for two meals. Use half for dinner and freeze half for another day.
Baked tomato gnocchi
The flavours of tomato, basil and rosemary all combined with melting mozzarella make this a deeply comforting dish. Alessandro also shared with us a recipe for blue cheese baked gnocchi with spinach and walnuts. We might make that one with the second portion of gnocchi in the freezer. For now however, the last of the basil in our garden was calling along with tomatoes in the fruit bowl.
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small red onion
1/2 of a tin of chopped tomatoes
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped roughly
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1 teaspoon of sugar
1/2 a block of mozzarella
Salt and pepper to season
Preheat your oven to grill at 220 degrees centigrade.
Heat oil to a medium heat in a frying pan. Add rosemary and basil and fry until fragrant. Add onion and garlic and fry until the onion is soft. Add tinned tomatoes, chopped tomatoes, tomato paste and sugar, stir and turn down to a low heat.
Simmer sauce for 20 minutes until the fresh tomatoes break down and the sauce is well combined. Add a little water during cooking if it becomes too dry.
Place cooked gnocchi in the bottom of a well-oiled oven dish. Pour over the tomato sauce and dot with hunks of mozzarella.
Grill gnocchi in the oven for about 15 minutes, until sauce is bubbling and mozzarella is melted and golden.