Potato Gnocchi with a Lightly Spiced Tomato Ragu, Butternut Squash, Spinach, Butterbeans and Pumpkin Seeds

James Barber, The Brudenell, Aldeburgh


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Serves 4-6


•    3 large red rooster potatoes (you need about 1kg of raw potato)
•    150g table salt (to bake the potatoes on)
•    125g pasta flour (tipo ‘oo’)
•    1 egg
•    2tbsp chopped parsley
•    1tbsp chopped chives
•    3g salt
•    Cracked black pepper
•    Nutmeg
Tomato Ragu 
•    ½ red onion sliced 
•    2tbsp olive oil
•    2 tins chopped tomatoes (400g each)
•    1 tin butterbeans, rinsed (400g)
•    1 clove garlic crushed
•    1/2tsp cayenne pepper
•    2tsp cumin
•    20g root ginger peeled and grated
•    ¼ cinnamon stick
•    3 bay leaves
•    2g salt

Roasted Butternut Squash
•    1 small butternut squash peeled and diced
•    1/2tsp five spice
•    1g salt
•    10 turns of black pepper
•    1tbsp olive oil

Pumpkin seeds
•    1kg pumpkin seeds 
•    250ml light soy sauce

Creamed spinach
•    100g double cream
•    500g baby spinach
•    2g salt
•    6 turns black pepper


1.    Bake the potatoes on a bed of the salt at 200oC for about 1 ½-2 hours, the salt draws moisture from the potato resulting in a drier mash and a firmer gnocchi, not essential but it does help.
2.    Once cooked, cut the potatoes in half and pass the inside through a potato ricer and then allow to cool. The potato must be stone cold when you make the gnocchi otherwise you will over work the starch giving a soggy gloopy mess.

3.    Weigh out 500g of mashed potato, mix with the pasta flour (this has a higher gluten content to plain flour, allowing a firmer, al dente finish to the gnocchi - bread flour will do as an alternative) the egg, parsley, chives, salt, 10 cracks of pepper and 3 scrapes of nutmeg.  
4.    Mix in a big bowl, then split mixture into 4.  
5.    Roll each piece into a long sausage on a lightly floured surface, cut into ‘pillows’ approximately 20mm x 10mm, pinching the middle as you cut to form a ‘bow tie’ look.
6.    Place these on greaseproof paper and plunge into boiling salted water a few at a time. 
7.    Once the gnocchi float to the surface, give them 30 seconds and refresh in cold water, preferably iced, drain well and dry on a clean cloth. Drizzle with a little olive oil and keep refrigerated until needed.

Tomato Ragu 
1.    Gently sweat down the onion in the olive oil without colour, add the cumin, ginger, bay leaf, cinnamon and cayenne pepper, and then cook for 2-3 minutes on a low heat.  
2.    Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
3.    Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for half an hour on a gentle simmer.
4.    Add the butterbeans and fuse together for 20-30 minutes.
5.    Finish with the salt, if you like the ragu hotter you can up the cayenne pepper, or add a chilli with the onion.

Roasted Butternut Squash
1.    Roll all the ingredients together in a bowl
2.    Pour onto a tray and roast for 15-20 minutes at 180oC until tender

Pumpkin seeds
1.    Roast in oven at 160oC for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes

Creamed spinach
1.    Carefully boil the cream
2.    Add the washed spinach, season with salt and pepper
3.    Drain off excess cream

To serve

1.    Fry the gnocchi in a little olive oil (you may choose to deep fry them instead, as long as the oil is clean this is acceptable). 
2.    Pour a puddle of the sauce on the plate, top with the gnocchi and butternut, sprinkle with the pumpkin seeds and you’re done.

Chef’s Tip

I like to finish the dish with a little grated parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. If you aren’t vegetarian you can add bacon to the ragu, add shredded smoked bacon once the onion is cooked, or the dish works well with lamb, chicken, sausages, or even some fish - cod works wonderfully well. This may seem like a lot of work, although the gnocchi can be made in advance and frozen, the sauce will keep refrigerated for up to a week, and the pumpkin seeds will store too. This dish may keep for 3-5 days refrigerated, or will freeze extremely well.  If you want a bigger batch, simply multiply the quantities. You can add a little twist to your dumplings by adding Marmite, just be warned it won’t suit everybody!