Complete the sentence: Making your own pasta is _____:
d) such a palaver
e) well worth the effort
Yes, the correct answer is indeed E. And since very recently, I’d also add: surprisingly quick and easy, mess-free and of such obvious superior quality.
As much as I enjoy making pasta, I’ve never been too confident about it, and it does tend to turn my kitchen upside down, with flour everywhere and pasta drying out on every surface. I’m a bit better with egg-based ones, although it puts me off, as you need to be ever so careful for it not to stick or break.
My recent 2 weeks stint in Sardinia, and an almost daily encounter with their omnipresent gnocchetti – or malloreddus, as they’re called locally – , set the tone for a new pasta challenge. And they turned out to be such a pleasure to make and cook that I think I may have found my new best pasta friend.
Unlike their more famous potato cousins, the gnocchi sardi are made with just durum wheat flour and water. They’re also bite sized, or even smaller if we’re talking of gnocchetti. Their shape is similar to an almost closed shell, a bit similar to conchiglie. The shape, along with the groovy surface, make them a most welcoming host to rich tomato sauce – with which is very commonly served. In their special ‘Sunday clothes’, gnocchi sardi have added saffron in the dough for the beautiful colour and flavour.
I didn’t want the heartbreak of facing our aneamic tomatoes after a fortnight in Southern Italian tomato sauce heaven, so I went with broccoli and garlic. It is a scientifically proven fact that adding any dark green and garlic to a dish immediately increases its chances of being a success by 75%.
As for the flour, I used remilled durum wheat semolina (or farina di semola rimacinata, if you’re looking for it in Italian delis). This is more refined than normal semolina flour, and after a bit of research, I found opinions on both sides: the remilled version is ideal for pasta making for its fineness; or you should stick to the normal durum wheat for better quality and bite. I found it easier to work with than the other semolina flour I normally use , and we had just perfectly al dente pasta for dinner. I’ll be going back for more.
Gnocchetti sardi with broccoli and garlic
I used a small wooden gnocchi board, also called ‘chitarrina’ (small guitar) with grooves on it to shape my gnocchi. You could also use the tines of a small fork.
For the pasta:
- 500g remilled durum wheat flour
- 250 ml very warm water
For the sauce:
- a small head of broccoli. Or, if available, broccoli florets, as they’re delicious on pasta
- 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped – or more, according to taste
- the nicest extra virgin olive oil you can get your hands on
- salt and black pepper
Make the pasta:
- place the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the centre
- gradually add the warm water to the centre and, using your fingers, start mixing the flour from the sides until it’s all incorporated and you have a uniform dough. Yes, the water is very hot, but as soon as it mixes with the flour the temperature drops and you won’t burn your fingers. Just be careful when you first pour the water.
- turn the dough out onto your work surface. Mine is wood and I did not need to flour it
- knead well, and with vigour! Approximately 15 minutes, until the dough is soft, silky and elastic
- form the dough into a ball and let it rest for 30 minutes
- cut a small portion out of the dough and roll it into a snake like shape of approximately 0.5 cm of diametre
- with a sharp knife, cut 1 cm round pieces of dough
- now, grab a piece and roll it against the gnocchi board/fork tine. Press it firmly against the board and roll the gnocchi down (see photo). It will curl over itself, and pick up the groves from the board.
Prepare the sauce:
1. separate the broccoli into florets and steam them for 3 to 4 minutes, until it’s tender, but still very al dente. I do this by placing a colander over a saucepan with simmering water, and cover the colander.
2. remove the broccoli from the steam and chop it into very small pieces.
3. warm a good amount of olive oil (about half a cup) in a large frying pan and add the chopped garlic on medium heat. Do not let it brown. As soon as it starts getting yellow-golden, add the broccoli and mix well so it’s all well coated with the oil. Keep the heat to a medium and cook for about 3 minutes. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
Bring it all together:
1. boil abundant water in a large saucepan. Add salt
2. throw the gnocchi in. It is ready as soon as it comes to the surface. Mine took no longer than 3 minutes
3. if you have big enough a frying pan, keep the warm broccoli in it and add the drained gnocchi to the pan as soon as they come come out of the boiling water. Mix it well and warm it for less than a minute. Otherwise, transfer the cooked gnocchi to a large serving dish, and mix the warm broccoli.
4. Serve with grated pecorino.