I am not a great fan of potato gnocchi – I love to make them but I always find them dull to eat. I much prefer spinach gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, bread gnocchi (called canederli) …and these delightful little carrot gnocchi, which I discovered few years ago in Marcella Hazan’s Marcella Says. Her recipe makes for wonderfully cheesy, bright orange morsels and it is a winner. Over time, however, I have strayed from it, looking for a clearer, lighter carrot taste and adopting a simpler technique in shaping them (versus Hazan’s recommendation of making quenelles, which are a bit of a bore to shape). Shocking the gnocchi in icy water firms them up and they are then easier to toss around in the frying pan with lots and lots of butter and sage.
Gnocchi di carote
Enough for 3-4 people
500 g carrots, peeled and halved
a splash of vegetable oil
60 g grated parmesan, plus extra at the table
About 4 tablespoons 00 flour
nutmeg, a pinch
zest of half a lemon, grated
semolina flour to roll the gnocchi
Place the carrots in a large bowl, add the oil, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar, toss them around until they are coated with the oil. Transfer them onto a parchment-lined oven tray and roast in a hot oven until they are very tender. Let them get completely cold.
Process them in a food processor, adding the parmesan, the yolk, the nutmeg and the lemon zest. The mixture should not be smooth and uniform – try to retain some texture. Lastly, add the flour, pulsing just to incorporate it.
Transfer the batter onto a plate and put in the freezer for 20 minutes: this will make the shaping much more manageable. Careful though: you do not want the mix to freeze, so check after the first ten minutes.
Lightly flour a surface with semolina flour and dump the mixture onto it. Sprinkle the top with extra semolina and pat the whole into a rough rectangle. Using a bench scraper, cut off small slices and roll them between under the palm of one hand into longer ropes, which are then cut into morsels – the size is really up to you.
Transfer the gnocchi onto a parchment paper-lined tray, sprinkled with a little semolina. You can either cook them right away or store them, uncovered in the fridge. You could also freeze them now by placing them in the freezer on a lined tray, without touching. When they are frozen hard, put them in a bag. Cook them from frozen in the normal way. I prefer to cook them all at once and then store the cooked gnocchi in the fridge, to be eaten in the next few days.
Fill a large, roomy saucepan (wider rather than taller) with water and bring it to the boil, salt it generously. Lower the heat: the water must simmer, not boil furiously. Have ready a large bowl filled with water and ice cubes. Pop the gnocchi into the simmering water and stir them gently for a few seconds. When they float up, give them another 20-30 seconds. Fish them out with a spider strainer and pop them into the icy water. Fish them out when they are cold and transfer onto a clean towel. The gnocchi can now go into the fridge until you want to eat them.
In a large frying pan, melt a generous knob of butter with some sage. When everything is bubbling and smells delicious, add the carrot gnocchi and toss them around gently. Reheat them gently until very hot. Serve with extra parmesan.