I love making gnocchi - I used to make hundreds in a day, each perfectly rolled on a ridged gnocchi board, all exactly the same size and shape. You will be glad to hear that I am much more rustic when I cook at home and it is ok for you to do the same - a misshapen gnocchi tastes the same as a perfect one! Homemade gnocchi are beautifully light and delicate compared with rubbery, factory made supermarket versions. They do take a little effort to make but if you do a big batch, they freeze very well so you can make several meals worth at once (freeze on a cling film lined tray and only bag up once they are fully frozen).
The art to getting a very light gnocchi is to add as little flour as you can get away with but still end up with a workable dough that will hold together during blanching. You need to start with dry floury potatoes such as Maris Piper and then bake rather than boil them to dry them out further. Once mastered gnocchi make a great staple with which to experiment - it is just a potato dumpling at the end of the day and works well with all manner of sauces or stews. For four:
Maris piper potato - 800g after cooking and peeling
Plain flour - 200g
Parmesan - 300g
Ripe baby tomatoes - 600g
Whipping cream - 1/2 pint tub
Rosemary & thyme - 3 sprigs of each
2 bay leaves
8 black pepper corns
Garlic - 3 cloves lightly crushed
Bake the potatoes in their skins until completely soft. Cut the potatoes in half and using a tea towel to protect your hands from the heat, scoop out the flesh onto the work surface. Break up any big bits, spread out and allow to steam and cool. While the spuds are cooling, put on a large pan of salted water to boil. Heat your oven to 220c and put the tomatoes into four small or one large ovenproof dish. Roast until the skins begin to split and some of the tomatoes take on a little colour then take out and set aside. Heat the cream, garlic, herbs and peppercorns to just below boiling and then set aside to infuse.
When the potatoes have stopped steaming but are still warm, scrape into a sieve and pass through to give a very fine mash. Mix in a large handful of the parmesan, the flour and season lightly with salt and pepper. Mix gently to form a light dough ball then tip onto a clean work surface again. Divide the ball into 6 and roll one at a time into a sausage shape the thickness of a packet of polo mints. Dust with a little flour while you roll to stop the dough sticking. Using a blunt spatula cut off 2cm lengths from the roll with a flicking motion so that you end up with pillow shaped gnocchi. Repeat until you have cut the lot, then blanch in batches in the boiling salted water until they float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and leave to cool on an oiled tray while you blanch the rest.
Arrange the gnocchi in your bowl(s) with the roast tomatoes and sprinkle with half the remaining parmesan. Drain the cream through a sieve to remove the herbs etc., then spoon the cream evenly over the tomatoes and gnocchi. Top generously with the parmesan and bake at 220c until bubbling and hot.