Homemade Gnocchi with Ragù Bianco
It is conventional to make Ragù Bianco with chicken livers. You can certainly introduce liver to the recipe below should you wish to, but I think that the combination of meats in this recipe does enough for depth of flavour without the need to add liver too.
Homemade gnocchi are definitely worth the effort – it's essentially the only way to go about things if you want gnocchi that are cloud-like and light. Making the dough itself is easy enough, rolling everything out and forming individual pieces from the super-soft dough is where things can get a little tricky, but practice makes perfect.
Gnocchi di Patate
- 800g floury potatoes (approx. 2-3 large potatoes)
- 2 eggs – lightly whisked
- 120g plain flour – sifted
- Salt & white pepper
- 200g lean minced beef
- 200g minced pork
- 100g minced chicken
- 60g butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ brown onion – finely chopped
- 1 small leek – very finely chopped (white part only)
- 1 celery stalk – very finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic – crushed
- 120ml dry white wine
- 120ml Marsala wine
- 1 small nutmeg – finely grated
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper
- Drizzle of fresh pouring cream (approx. 3 tablespoons)
- Small bunch of fresh sage – leaves picked
- Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino to serve.
It is best to have a potato ricer or mouli for this recipe. You can try mashing the potato by hand, but are unlikely to end up with the desired airy texture.
In a wide, heavy-based pan, heat half of the butter (i.e. 30g), together with the olive oil, over a low-medium heat. Add the chopped onion, leek, and celery, and fry slowly, for between 8-10 minutes until soft and translucent, but not browned. About half way through this cooking time, add the crushed garlic, and stir, taking care that the garlic does not stick or burn.
The slow frying of aromatics such as onion, leeks, celery, carrots, and garlic, known in French as ‘mirepoix’ is called ‘soffritto’ in Italian, and forms the base for a number of traditional soups, sauces and stews – particularly those from the north of Italy.
Turn the heat up slightly beneath the soffritto and add the beef, pork, and chicken. Cook these gently, breaking the mince apart with a wooden spoon as you stir. When the mince is sealed on all sides, and is just beginning to brown, add the white wine and the Marsala.
Now, turn the heat to a low setting, grate in the nutmeg and add the bay leaf. Season with salt and a few grinds of black pepper to taste.
The sauce can now be left to cook down very gently for between 1½ and 2hrs – until the meat acquires a soft texture and a little oil has risen to the surface of the sauce. If the sauce begins to look dry at any point during the cooking, add a small splash of water, up to about 100ml if necessary.
For the gnocchi, boil the potatoes, skin on, in a large pot of salted water. Cook until soft all the way through, (test this with the tip of a sharp pointed knife), and then drain and leave aside a few moments until they are cool enough to handle. Using your fingers, peel the skins from the potatoes and discard these. The skin should come away easily from the warm potatoes.
Pass the peeled potatoes through a ricer, and then transfer back to the empty saucepan. Heat the riced potato gently over a low heat for approximately 4 minutes, allowing steam to escape, and stirring gently until the potato comes together to form a loose ball. The purpose of this step is to dry the potatoes further, ensuring a light textured gnocchi, as well as to bring the potato together to form the beginning of a dough.
Turn the potato ‘dough’ out onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Form a well or indentation in the centre of the potato, and add to this the lightly whisked eggs, a little salt and white pepper, as well as the sifted flour. Mix together until evenly blended, but take care not to over-work or the dough will become heavy. A soft, airy texture is ideal, but if your mixture is so soft that it won’t withstand cooking, add a little more flour to stiffen it.
To shape the gnocchi, pinch a small ball of dough, and roll on a lightly floured surface to form a long, smooth sausage shape, about the thickness of a finger. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into small squares (or little pillows as I like to think of them), flicking the knife quickly as you cut to move each one aside, allowing you to cut the next.
To cook the gnocchi, place a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil.
When this has begun to boil, place a wide frying pan over medium heat, and add the remaining butter.
Now check the ragù, at this point it should be sufficiently cooked down, and no longer liquid-y. Quickly double check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. If you have already turned the heat off below the cooked sauce, now is the time to bring it back up to temperature over a low-medium heat.
The gnocchi only take 2 minutes to cook, so the assembly of the dish happens quickly from here, and all the component parts should be ready to go.
Handling the gnocchi very carefully, place these into the rapidly boiling water. Start timing your 2 minutes cooking from the moment the gnocchi bob to the surface of the water.
Next, add the sage leaves to the butter, and fry gently.
Lastly, drizzle the cream into the ragù, and stir through to heat.
Once cooked, drain the gnocchi carefully through a colander and add to the warm butter and sage, tossing to coat.
(If you would prefer to prepare the gnocchi some time prior to serving, they can also be lightly oiled post-boiling and spread out in a layer on greaseproof paper to chill in the fridge. Re-heat by refreshing in boiling water briefly, and then re-introduce at the sage-butter stage).
Once coated in the butter and sage, add the gnocchi directly to the ragù, and stir gently to combine.
Serve immediately, with a generous helping of grated Parmesean or Pecorino sprinkled on top.