BBQ aubergine gnocchi with tomatoes, basil and Grana Padano
. Difficulty: Medium
. Serves: 4 people
. Preparation time: 1.30 hour. Cooking Time: 20 minutes
. Variety: Rice
In this day and age, who doesn’t know gnocchi? Soft little potato pillows that you dress and eat as if they were pasta…comforting and delicious right? Well, what if I told you, you can make gnocchi not only with potatoes but with many other veggies, starting with smoked BBQ aubergines.
To me, this recipe combines my love for pasta and Italian food in general with the attraction I have for BBQ and smoked flavours, even though I am not a big meat eater. I serve the gnocchi with plum sweet tomatoes, Grana Padano cheese and fresh basil and I like to enjoy them with a bubbly glass of Prosecco DOC Brut for a quintessential Italian experience!
The BBQ party season is about to start, who is ready to surprise their guests with a plate of gnocchi alongside the usual ribs?
Chef’s tips: You can make the gnocchi in advance and freeze them. When needed, boil directly from frozen.
Ingredients500 g of aubergine puree, drained and pat dry (about 1.5 kg raw)
250 g of 00 flour
120 g of finely grated Grana Padano cheese
1 tsp of dried oregano
Salt to taste
For the dressing
400 g of cherry tomatoes
1 sprig of basil
4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
100 g of Grana Padano
100 ml of double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
PreparationCook the Aubergine over the BBQ or over open fire. Alternatively, you can bake them at 200° C whole for about 30 minutes until they are soft, but you will lose the lovely smoky flavour.
Do not worry if the aubergines’ skins burn, that is what we want. They have to be soft in the middle and cooked through while charcoaled on the outside.
Place the cooked aubergines in a covered container, the steam will loosen up even more their skin.
When cold, carefully remove the burned skin from the aubergine. This step could take time, but it will be worth it. I also recommend washing the aubergine pulp if too many pieces of burnt skin are still attached.
At this stage it is fundamental to drain the pulp for as long as you can, even over night to lose as much water as possible. I recommend to pat dry with kitchen paper. You can also, pan roast the pulp in a non-stick pan with just a drizzle of oil and garlic. This step will allow the excess water to evaporate, and the aubergine pulp will concentrate its flavour.
When the pulp is firm (and cold), get ready to knead. Remember, when making gnocchi, it is always better to use less flour if you can, to better taste the main ingredient but in this case, this mainly depends from your ability to get rid of as much water as you can from the aubergine pulp.
Knead the pulp with the flour, the yolk, the grated Grana Padano, the oregano and a pinch of salt. The dough should very quickly bind together but it won’t be smooth or elastic. Keep in mind, if your dough is too sticky and wet you can still add flour as you knead but do not overwork the dough or it will keep on absorbing more and more flour.
Roll pieces of dough with the palm of your hands on the table to create thick, long strips. This type of dough is quite crumbly so take your time to do this. With a dough scraper or a blunt knife cut the strips into little gnocchi and set them aside, well-floured. Be ready to cook straight away or freeze them.
Wash the tomatoes and carve a little cross incision on each of them. Blanch them for about 15 seconds in boiling water, then cool them straight away in ice. This step will help you to peel them very quickly.
Fry the garlic in olive oil then add the chopped tomatoes. Season with salt and cook for just a couple of minutes.
Heat the cream in a little pot and bring to the boil, then add the grated Grana Padano and remove from the stove. The remaining heat will gently melt the cheese.
Boil the gnocchi in salted water and when cooked, they will float to the surface. Now toss them straight away into the pan with the chopped tomatoes, add a ladle of pasta water, a drizzle of oil and stir for 30 seconds over medium heat to coat the gnocchi well with the dressing.
Plate straight away, top with the Grana Padano sauce and drizzle with a little extra olive oil. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy.