Gnocchi are dumplings. They come in many styles and can be made from plain flour, semolina or, as here, potato. This mixture is similar to that used in Ulster, Northern Ireland, to make potato bread, the idea being to incorporate plenty of flour into a base of mashed potato, then bind the two with egg. Whereas good Ulster folk griddle the result to accompany bacon rashers and fried egg, Italians cut the mixture into little dumplings for poaching.
Boil the potatoes, then mash them. Place the mash in a large bowl then gently work in the eggs, Parmesan, nutmeg, some salt and pepper and all but a tablespoon of the flour (the rest will be needed to dust the gnocchi before they are poached).
Form the mixture into a ball then, with the palms of your hands, roll the dough into cylinders the thickness of good cigars. Cut the cylinders into 2cm (¾in) pieces and dust with flour.
Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. As you do so, press one side of the gnocchi against a fork or grater to make ridges, then drop them into the boiling water. They will rise to the surface as they cook. Lift them out with a slotted spoon.
The gnocchi are ready. Just before serving, toss them in a pan with butter or whatever sauce you fancy.
© 2000 Shaun Hill. All rights reserved.