This dish reminds me of sluggish pomeriggi in the trattoria of Bologna. Fresh pasta, floury and soft, with a painless, no-frills sauce. And probably a fierce glass of red to wash it down.
Here, the fresh garlic, crisp sage and toasted hazelnuts bring strength and bite to the earthy, soft gnocchini. Gnocchi are simple enough to knock up (there's a bit to do a the beginning but this can all be done in advance) and they go a long way for lunch - you'll be full after a small plate so there will be plenty left over for surprise diners.
with, TOASTED HAZELNUTS, FRESH GARLIC & SAGE BUTTER
100g beetroot, peeled and chopped
250g King Edward potatoes, peeled chopped
75g plain flour
1 small/medium free range egg, beaten
100g lightly salted butter
fresh garlic, sliced in rounds
handful sage leaves
approx. 10 hazelnuts, crushed
Bring two pans of salted water to the boil. Put the potatoes in one and the beetroot in the other. Cook the beetroot and the potatoes until soft enough to slip a knife through.
Put the beetroot into a food processor and whizz until pureed. Push the puree through a sieve once or twice to make it really smooth.
Mash the potatoes. They should be light and fluffy with little moisture. Keep them on the heat for a bit if the is any excess water.
Measure out the flour into a deep bowl, or on a floured surface. Make a well in the flour and add the egg, beetroot and potato. Season with salt. Mix through with your fingers, so that the colour of the beetroot spreads evenly. The mixture should turn into a soft dough. If too wet, add more flour.
Cut the dough into equal sized squares and roll into long sausages. This is where you can experiment with size and shape, but to go for the traditional diamond, cut the dough diagonally, every 2-3 cm. Lightly dust with flour.
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil.
Gently toast the hazelnuts in a small pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt the butter and add the sliced garlic. You want this to cook very gently before adding the sage. Once the garlic has softened slightly, add the sage to infuse into the butter and crisp up.
Add the gnocchi to the pan. As soon as they float to the top, they'll be ready!
Serve up in a pasta bowl and drizzle with the sage garlic butter. Grate with a generous helping of Parmesan and sprinkle over the hazelnuts.
Talk to no one, look at no one, just eat.