Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is a traditional recipe from Naples combining ingredients from two worlds. Tradition wants that this recipe has been created in the XVI century in Sorrento, by a cook intrigued by the new botanical curiosity coming from the Americas.
About this Recipe
By: Silvana Lanzetta
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is a delicious Neapolitan recipe: gnocchi, tomatoes, mozzarella, parmesan, and basil are all you need to make it.
Did you know that gnocchi is one of the first pasta ever made? The first gnocchi has been found during digs in a Neolithic village in Trentino Alto Adige: archaeologists found a dozen of small dumplings made with roughly stone ground flour from local cereals.
Ever since gnocchi and Italy have had a long love story that developed in the birth of some many varieties -at some point over 100 different kinds: chicken gnocchi, semolina gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, stale bread gnocchi, polenta gnocchi, boiled egg yolk gnocchi… and the list goes on and on. However, the most well-known kind of gnocchi is the potatoes one.
Legend wants that it was invented in Sorrento in the late 1400s, just after the discovery of America. Explorers returned in Europe with their ships full of exotic fruit and vegetables, among these potatoes and tomatoes. A cook in a small restaurant in Sorrento decided to play with the new ingredients and invented the potatoes gnocchi by adding mashed potatoes to the classic gnocchi dough of flour and eggs. Then took the tomatoes and made a sauce out of them, adding mozzarella and basil, so to mix the new world with the old one in the iconic dish.
For the gnocchi
- 1 Kg of floury potatoes, such as Maris Piper or King Edwards
- 300 gr of plain flour
- 1 egg
- Potato starch (optional)
For the sauce
As charming as this story can be, it’s unfortunately historically very inaccurate.
Potatoes and tomatoes weren’t introduced into Italian cuisine until much later. The reason is their high content of solanine, a toxic compound found in potatoes, tomatoes, and aubergines. Tomatoes were a mere decorative plant, used to be gifted by the aristocratic gentlemen to their love interests (Pomodoro -Italian for tomato- means golden apple… a gallant recall of the Greek legend of the golden apple, destined to the most beautiful).
Potatoes, on the other hand, were considered such a foul food that it wasn’t even dignified enough to be given to the beggars.
It’s only after the famine in 1724 that the potatoes start to make their way into Italian cuisine. For the tomatoes, we’ll have to wait a little longer. Therefore, gnocchi alla Sorrentina is likely to have been created at the beginning of the 19th century.
Whatever its date of birth is, this recipe is absolutely delicious, and one of my favourite. It was always a good day when my mum made gnocchi! And today, it’s my children who cheer every time I make gnocchi!
Gnocchi alla sorrentina is not as heavy and rich as one can expect. A 300gr portion is less 468 Kcal. So it’s a meal that you can eat without too much guilt!
- Proteins 14% 14%
- Carbs 66% 66%
- Fats 20% 20%
Step by Step Instructions
Make gnocchi alla sorrentina
Boil the potatoes whole with the skin on, until you can easily stab with a fork. Depending on the size of the potatoes, it will take about 20–30 minutes. Immediately peel and mask the potatoes, preferably with a potato ricer: you want a very smooth mash, without bits. Do not overwork the potatoes, otherwise, it’ll start to produce extra water.
Put the potato mash on a clean flat surface. Form a large well and add the flour and the egg in the middle. Knead everything until you obtain a smooth dough. Do not over-knead, otherwise, it’ll start to become sticky. If it does happen, don’t add extra flour, instead, add potato starch. As a general rule, keep the kneading to a minimum and don’t add more than 300 gr of plain flour for every kilo of potatoes.
Cut a small section of the dough and roll it in a rope a finger thick. Then cut the rope in small dumplings of about 1 cm long. If you don’t have patience or time, you can stop there, no need to stripe the gnocchi. If you feel like it, using a gnocchi stripper (get yours HERE) or a fork, roll the dumpling so to create ridges all over the surface. Follow this procedure with the rest of the dough.
Leave the gnocchi to rest on a cotton cloth, while you prepare the sauce
In a large saucepan, put the oil and the crushed garlic cloves. Cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes (San Marzano tomatoes are the best: you can order them HERE ), raise the heat to high, bring the tomato to boils, then lower the heat again to medium-low. Allow cooking for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.
Pre-heat the oven at 180°C/ 350°F/ gas mark 4.
Bring a large casserole of water to boil. Salt abundantly.
Scatter a few handfuls of gnocchi in the boiling water (you don’t want to add too many, otherwise, they will stick together or, even worse, break), stir carefully to avoid the gnocchi sticking to the bottom of the casserole. As soon as the gnocchi float, remove them with a slotted spoon or a small sieve, and add them to the tomato sauce. Do this until you’ve cooked all the gnocchi. Stir the gnocchi into the tomato sauce to make sure everything is evenly coated.
In a large oven dish, put half of the gnocchi, spreading well so they cover the entire base. Cut the mozzarella in small cubes, and scatter half of it over the gnocchi. sprinkle a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese and a few torn basil leaves.
Cover with the rest of the gnocchi. Scatter on top the rest of the mozzarella, all the Parmesan cheese, and the rest of the torn basil.
Put it in the oven for 15–20 minutes. Serve immediately.
Assmeble the gnocchi in the baking tray just before putting it in the oven: if you do it in advance, you will end up with mash potatoes, as the gnocchi absorb the moisture from the tomato and start to undo.
If youare eft with some leftovers, you can store tyour gnocchi in a airtight container for uo to 3 days. For best result reheat it in the oven at 140°C/ 275°F/ gas mark 1 for about 30 minutes, then put them under a grill set on high for 10 minutes.