Artusi’s October: Chicken gnocchi for the soul
It’s been a long summer in Tuscany this year but finally the temperature is dropping with this perfectly crisp, cool autumn air. Where in the summer heat I wilt, I feel at the same time invigorated and comforted by autumn. I like to lie in bed for a few extra minutes just to enjoy being warm under the fluffy covers. My morning ritual now begins with putting the kettle on for a big, steaming mug of herbal tea to warm up. And I begin craving soup. Hearty or delicate, filling or cleansing, soup has to be my favourite cool weather comfort food.
So when scouring Artusi’s suggestions for an October lunch menu, I noticed he had an out of the ordinary dish for gnocchi – a sort of delicate chicken noodle soup version of gnocchi.
Gnocchi as most people know it is a northern Italian favourite, little dumplings made from potato and flour, usually served with simple sauces like tomato or a creamy cheese sauce. Uncomplicated. They are really very easy to make and Artusi also has a recipe for these that I think is faultless (500 gr potatoes, 150 gr flour, 1 egg and some salt).
But gnocchi actually appear in many different shapes, forms and with different ingredients depending on where you find them on the peninsula. Roman-style gnocchi are round discs made from semolina flour and baked, find them made out of bread in the Alto Adige – Sudtirol area, and even Tuscan gnudi (literally a ‘naked’ ravioli filling of spinach and ricotta) are considered a sort of gnocchi.
Artusi’s dish is a delicate, soul-warming gnocchi made with chicken and potatoes in the actual ‘dough’. It is served as a minestra, in a broth, and is the sort of dish that would be perfect for a chilly day or a rainy night in, pure comfort food.
The secret ingredient here is to have an excellent chicken broth on hand, and if you can prepare it yourself, even better. As you will need to prepare some poached chicken breasts, why not think about getting yourself a whole chicken and using it to make the broth with as well?
The chicken gnocchi are not only served with the broth, but they are actually cooked in this chicken broth as well, imparting flavour throughout the entire dish.
Another important step is making sure you cook the gnocchi on a low simmer rather than a rolling boil. Artusi hilariously recounts a story of a woman who lost her gnocchi in a fast boiling pot – they literally vanished from sight! If this happens to a couple of gnocchi, don’t get too disheartened, they will actually add some flavour and texture to the broth.
- 200 gr potatoes
- 1 poached chicken breast
- 2 egg yolks
- 30-40 gr of flour (or as needed)
- 40 gr finely grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt to taste
- 2 litres of chicken broth
Boil or steam the potatoes until soft and cooked through and mash them.
To poach the chicken breast, simply place it in a pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Let it simmer for 10 minutes then let it sit, off the heat, in its poaching liquid for another 15 minutes or so. You can prepare this the day before if you like; when it is cool enough to handle, either chop it very finely with a knife or mince it with a food processor.
Combine the mashed potato, minced chicken, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks and season with salt and nutmeg.
Turn out onto a floured surface and sift the 40 grams flour (or as needed) on top. Knead into a soft dough and then, taking sections, roll out long ‘fingers’ of dough and cut these into 1 inch sized pieces.
In the meantime, heat a large pot of chicken broth (if needed you can add a bit more water) to boiling and, lowering the heat, carefully drop the gnocchi into the simmering broth. They will only need about 5 minutes of cooking.
Very gently remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in bowls. Although this isn’t part of Artusi’s recipe, I also heated up some fresh sage leaves in a knob of butter and add this to the bowls of gnocchi. Ladle over the broth and serve immediately with some more grated Parmesan cheese on the side.