Gnocchi with Fish Sauce (Gnocchi con Sugo di Pesce)

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After eating at three-star restaurants and trying complicated recipes, it’s easy to forget that simple food can be great, too. Fortunately I only need to browse one of Biba Caggiano’s cookbooks to be reminded of that, and that is where I found this recipe. You may not think that making your own gnocchi from scratch is simple food, but it is for many Italian home cooks. Of course you could use store-bought potato gnocchi to make this recipe instead, but fresh homemade gnocchi are much more delicate and a great match for this lovely fish sauce. The combination of seafood, tomatoes, and potatoes is a classic in Italian cooking and for good reason because it is very tasty.

Important to this dish are the freshness of the fish, the lightness of the gnocchi, and not overcooking the fish. If you overcook the fish, it will fall apart and become dry. By turning off the heat and allowing the heat of the sauce to cook the fish, you prevent the fish from overcooking and it will remain juicy.

I prefer to cook the potatoes for gnocchi sous-vide, but this time I cooked them in the oven just to stress the point that you can make gnocchi without any kind of equipment. I made two changes to Biba’s recipe: I used white wine instead of brandy, and I added some concentrated fish stock for additional flavor.

Ingredients

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For 2 servings

225 grams (.5 lb) white fish fillets, such as sea bass, sea bream, or sole, cut into pieces about the size of gnocchi

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp minced fresh flat leaf parsley

1 Tbsp minced fresh sage

1 clove garlic, minced

240 ml (1 cup) fish stock, reduced to 80 ml (1/3 cup)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 can (200 grams/7 oz) peeled tomatoes, pureed in the food processor

1 Tbsp heavy cream

80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine

For the gnocchi

400 grams (.9 lb) floury potatoes

80 grams (1/2 cup) 00 flour

pinch of salt

Preparation

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Preheat the oven to 190ºC/375ºF. Pierce the potatoes a few times with a fork.

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Bake the potatoes for 45 minutes to an hour at 190ºC/375ºF or until tender.

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Allow the potatoes to cool until you can handle them.

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Peel them.

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Use a potato ricer or foodmill to turn the potatoes into puree.

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Add the flour.

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Knead with your hands.

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The dough will still be slightly sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour, as that will make the gnocchi chewy.

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Dust your work surface (wooden is best) with flour. Take a piece of dough, roll it into a thin sausage about the thickness of a finger, and cut it into gnocchi.

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Repeat until you have used up all of the dough. As an optional step you can use the tines of a fork to make grooves in the gnocchi, but that is not really needed as they will hold the sauce well anyway.

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Heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, parsley, and sage, and stir for a minute over medium heat.

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Add the white wine and stir for a minute until the alcohol has evaporated.

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Add the reduced fish stock…

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…the pureed tomatoes…

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…and the cream.

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Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until the sauce has a nice consistency, about 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and the gnocchi.

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Turn off the heat and add the fish to the sauce.

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Stir to mix. The fish will be cooked through very quickly.

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Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted spoon as soon as they float…

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…and add them to the sauce.

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Repeat until you have added all of the gnocchi.

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Stir very gently, trying not to break up the fish or the gnocchi.

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Serve at once on warm plates.

Wine pairing

This is great with many Italian unoaked dry whites. Try it with a greco di tufo.

Flashback


Two years ago I made pizzoccheri alla valtellinese for the first time. This is a hearty dish that in this time of the year is nice on a cold day. With homemade pizzoccheri it is even better.

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21 thoughts on “Gnocchi with Fish Sauce (Gnocchi con Sugo di Pesce)

  1. Like your use of sage in the fish sauce . . . the latter had not been one of my favourite herbs until recently: it’s amazing what its usage in inspired recipes will teach 🙂 !

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  2. This recipe seems quite traditional and I find it interesting from a food science perspective.

    – Does piercing the potatoes make them lose more moisture, and more specifically, how much?

    – Also, according to The Food Lab, alcohol will help carry aromas and even when boiling off alcohol, some is usually left behind in sauces. This suggests that this dish might be even tastier when adding the wine later on in the cooking process.

    This calls for side-by-side comparisons!

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    1. Piercing the potatoes is done to make them lose more moisture, but I do not know how much.

      As for adding wine, I do sometimes add a few tablespoons of wine I will be serving with the dish at the very end. By adding it so late, more of the aromas of the wine will be in the dish and the dish will pair even better with the wine.

      You are right these are good ideas for side-by-side comparisons.

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      1. I have done an experiment with two potatoes of comparable weight and size.
        Potato A, 122 grams, pierced; Potato B 125 grams, unpierced. I placed both potatoes in the microwave for about 5 minutes on “full whack”.
        The end weight of potato A was 113 grams, potato B 114 grams; so potato A lost approximately 7.4% of its weight while potato B (the unpierced one) lost 8.8% of its weight.

        Although these numbers don’t say much about what would happen in an oven, I’d say these numbers are probaby close enough together to conclude that piercing potatoes doesn’t make a significant difference.

        I suppose this makes sense; the moisture would be lost through the peel (which is not water-proof otherwise the potato couldn’t absorb water!) and the surface area of the peel is essentially unchanged.

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        1. Interesting experiment. I’m curious what would happen in an oven, as an oven works through convection while the microwaves can penetrate the potato.
          When piercing the potato it should be pierced deeply, not just the peel.
          What you write makes sense, but I am not completely convinced yet.

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  3. Looks lovely and yes a simple meal is just as satisfying (perhaps to a different part of our brain/soul) as an elaborate refined one.
    I love baking the potatoes on a bed of salt. It wicks even more moisture out and requires less eggs later on. A trick and recipe I learned from Paul Wolfert.

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  4. Stefan, if you are ever in northern California you must eat at her restaurant. She is always there, the food is always perfectly executed, and she is always gracious and charming.

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    1. Hi Bob, I did actually eat at her restaurant in 2009 and loved it. Unfortunately, she was sick at the time and not there. I did have a nice chat with her husband, though.

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  5. Another of Biba’s classics, Stefan, and you did it justice. Using the reduced fish stock must bring a great fish flavor to the sauce. If one hasn’t make gnocchi, it’s easy to fall into the trap of using store-bought. Once they discover how relatively easy gnocchi are to make and how much better they taste, I doubt they’ll buy gnocchi again. Paring your gnocchi with this fish sauce is such a great idea and I bet it was one tasty meal.

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    1. Hi John, it was tasty indeed and you are so right about homemade gnocchi. I actually forgot to mention in the post (just fixed that) that I made two changes to Biba’s recipe: I substituted brandy with white wine, and I added the reduced fish stock. The idea is to use only enough fish stock to add depth to the sauce, not to make it taste fishy.

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  6. Stefan, I filled your inbox. I am amazed at the number of material you have posted. I still have another 3 months to catch up. I thoroughly enjoy watching your masterpieces and introduction of masterpieces by other great chefs too. Thank you.

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    1. Thanks, Fae, you’ve made my day with all your likes and comments. It is my mission to blog about everything ‘gourmet’ that I do, and that means several posts each week. I’ve slowed down a bit in summer though.

      Liked by 1 person

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