Living in Italy, one of my favorite dishes to make for family dinner is this homemade gnocchetti (just like gnocchi, only smaller) blanketed in a creamy, lemony goat cheese sauce. Making the gnocchetti from scratch is straightforward and simple (in this recipe, you let the oven do most of the work), and the sauce comes together in as long as it takes water to boil.
Rinse and pat dry the potatoes, but leave them whole, skins on. It helps for cooking time if they are roughly of similar sizes. Place the rock salt in a baking tray in an even layer. Place the potatoes on top of the salt layer and bake at 350°F for 1 hour, or until a fork can easily pierce the potatoes.
Remove from the oven and let cool ever so slightly so they are warm, but can be handled, and remove the skin with a small sharp knife. Place the potato flesh in a large bowl and, while hot, mash or put through a potato ricer so you have a smooth, fluffy consistency. Spread the mixture out with a fork to allow the heat (and steam) to escape and allow to cool without covering (this ensures the mixture does not retain too much liquid).
Add the egg yolk and ½ teaspoon of salt to the cooled potato and and mix to combine. Then, fold through flour until you have a soft dough. Pinch off fist-sized portions and with the palm of your hand, roll into a 1 centimeter-thick log, then cut the log into 1 centimeter pieces and roll each one until round. If needed, dust surface with potato starch.
*Note: Baking the potatoes with the salt layer helps to absorb any excess moisture, all helping to make that fluffy, airy potato filling. Using potato starch (note, not potato flour; you can substitute cornstarch) helps makes these not only fluffy and light, but also happens to be gluten-free. You can use regular wheat flour if you don't have a problem with wheat, although you will likely need to use more—double and even up to 250 grams, depending on the humidity of your dough.
For the lemon and goat cheese sauce:
Put a large pot of salted water on to boil the gnocchetti.
Finely grate the lemons with a microplane for their zest (careful not to use any of the white pith, it is bitter), then, cut them in half and squeeze all the juice from them. Set aside.
Place butter and olive oil in a skillet to melt over medium heat. Once melted, add the lemon zest and let infuse for about 1 minute, stirring. Do not let the lemon burn; add the lemon juice and let simmer 3 minutes. Add the goat cheese, about half the Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper; cook a further 1 to 2 minutes, or until thick. Add the chiles and parsley, if using, then remove from the heat.
Cook the gnocchetti in the simmering water for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until they float. Drain carefully (save about 125 ml of the cooking water), and place the gnocchetti in the pan with the lemon sauce, swirling to coat. Add some extra cooking water if it is looking dry. Serve with the rest of the grated cheese (and more if desired).
*Note: Seek out organic lemons, as they haven't been treated with pesticides or waxed; since the flavor of this dish relies mostly on their zest, those kind of treatments are the last thing you want to taste. Do give them a good rinse under running water and pat dry before using, though. You can also use single cream instead of the goat cheese.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.