EASY DOES IT
AirFryday: Gnocchi and butternut with brown butter and sage
Conventional wisdom says gnocchi – little potato dumplings – should be soft and puffy like a pillow, which is why when I first saw this recipe for preparation in an airfryer, I was curious. With their little nooks and crannies, gnocchi absorb sauces well but crisped, they may not. Why stick with tradition though? These dumplings are delicious in their own right, with a classic sage, squash and brown butter sauce.
The key to making good gnocchi is to use dry, floury potatoes (so no glassy, chipping potatoes!) because you need to keep the potatoes as dry as possible in order to steam rather than boil them.
If you choose to boil potatoes, don’t peel or cut them until after they’re cooked.
You could make the gnocchi from scratch (it’s not nearly as difficult as it sounds, and far more economical than buying the ready-made versions) but with limited time, in between Stage Six power outages, I cheated this time. But I’m sharing a great recipe for homemade gnocchi – which turned out as perfection – and encourage you to try making them.
Whether you’re preparing them from scratch, or taking a shortcut, do give them a quick boil first to bring out their soft inner centres. Airfrying gives the gnocchi a lovely crispy coating, which works particularly well with the butternut and walnut sauce.
Paired with roasted butternut, toasted walnuts, brown butter and fresh sage, plus generous gratings of Parmesan, this dish is a feast for all seasons.
It’s quite rich so best served in small portions, as a first course.
Gnocchi and butternut with brown butter and sage
1kg russet/floury potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 handful kosher salt, for cooking water
Boil the potatoes whole and unpeeled, so that they don’t absorb a lot of water, until they are cooked through and can be pierced with a knife.
Once cool enough to handle, peel and pass the cooked potatoes through a food mill or potato ricer, to produce a smooth uniform texture. If you don’t have a ricer, mash until super-smooth. Do not be tempted to put them in a food processor as you’ll end up with a sticky mess. I’ve learnt this the hard way from making skordalia – the Greek potato and garlic dip.
Turn the cooked potato onto a lightly floured surface, and add about half the flour. Knead until it is a sticky mass. Add more flour, a little at a time, and continue to knead until the dough is smooth. You probably won’t need to use all the flour. Cut the dough into smaller sections, roll each piece into a long cylinder about 2cm in diameter. Cut each cylinder into 2cm pieces.
Meanwhile, bring another pot of salted water to the boil. While you’re waiting, shape the gnocchi by pressing each piece between your thumb and the tines of a fork, rolling it slightly so each side of the gnocchi has a fork imprint and a small indentation from your thumb.
Prepare gnocchi, whether freshly made or freshly bought: Once the water has boiled, add gnocchi to the pot in small batches so as to avoid crowding it. A 500g portion should be more than enough for four people. Slowly simmer for about two minutes until the gnocchi rise to the surface. Drain and set aside.
200g fresh butternut, cubed
Extra-virgin olive oil, for the squash and gnocchi
White pepper to taste
6 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
10 large fresh sage leaves, rinsed and patted dry (or 1 tsp dried sage)
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and par-boil butternut. Preheat the airfryer to 180°C. Drain and toss butternut in the olive oil, with white pepper to taste. Insert an airfryer liner and grill butternut until cooked through and golden brown, flipping halfway through. Remove from the airfryer and set aside.
Transfer to a large serving bowl.
Toss the gnocchi in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt. Transfer the gnocchi to the airfryer basket and cook, flipping halfway through, until golden and crispy, about 10 minutes. Transfer the gnocchi to the serving bowl with the squash.
While the gnocchi is cooking, heat the butter in a saucepan, stirring occasionally, until it begins to turn light golden and smells nutty, about three minutes. Add the walnuts, sage and a pinch of salt, and stir. The butter will turn a deep golden colour. Once it reaches that stage, pour it over the gnocchi and butternut, gently toss to coat, and top with the grated Parmesan. DM