I grew up in a restaurant in a tiny village in northern Italy. When my mother went back to work, my grandmother ran the house and she cooked for everybody, every day. One of my first memories is my nose touching the edge of the table in my grandmother's kitchen, as I watched her rolling out gnocchi for our lunch.
My grandmother would serve up the gnocchi straight from the pot, with a little butter, or olive oil and Parmesan – the perfect food for a kid. The adults would eat theirs with goat's cheese, which makes a very light sauce, or mushrooms. One day, when I was five years old, my grandmother made tomato sauce for the gnocchi. I'd never seen tomatoes before – they were the best thing I've tasted in my life. From then on all I kept saying was, "I want gnocchi and tomato, I don't want the white sauce". This meal reminds me of a simpler life.
First, make a tomato sauce by simmering one finely chopped onion in 2 tbsp of olive oil, then adding a tin of tomatoes and stewing for 30 minutes, adding seasoning and a teaspoon of sugar if the tomato is too acidic. Sieve and set aside.
Then make the gnocchi – this recipe makes about 1kg. As it is quite difficult to work with small quantities of dough, it is better to make a larger amount and freeze half.
For the gnocchi
1kg very starchy potatoes
About 320g plain flour
2 small eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt
Cover the potatoes (in their skins) in cold water, bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer until soft. Drain and put into a warm oven for a few minutes. While the potatoes are still hot, peel and pass them through a sieve; mix with the egg, a pinch of salt, and about three-quarters of the flour. Mix well, stopping as soon as the dough comes together.
Dust your work surface with flour, take your dough and flatten into a square about 1.5cm thick. Cut it into strips about 1.5cm wide – so you have 'square' cigars. Dusting your hands with flour, roll each piece lightly until they are cylindrical. Take two or three cylinders at a time, lay them next to each other then, cutting through them all at the same time, trim off the ends, then cut the rest into pieces (1-1.5cm in width). Repeat with the rest of the cylinders, until you have lots of little nuggets of dough.
Lightly dusting with flour all the time, take a fork and push each piece of dough on to the prongs, so that it rolls itself up and is marked with lines – they don't have to be perfect. However, they should be all the same size, so that they will all cook evenly. As you make each one, roll it on a tray dusted with flour.
Now they are ready to cook. You should cook them as quickly as possible, but if you need to keep them for an hour or so, make sure you dust the gnocchi again with flour, keeping them separate from each other on the tray and every 10 minutes or so shake the tray a little.
To assemble the dish
4tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp tomato sauce (see above)
2tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Set aside about half of the gnocchi. In a sauté pan, heat the oil, then add the garlic and cook gently for a minute or so. Add the cherry tomatoes and cook gently with the garlic for a couple of minutes, then season. Add the tomato sauce and cook for another couple of minutes. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and put in the gnocchi. Keep stirring until they rise to the surface (a minute or so), then lift out with a slotted spoon and put them into the sauce. Add the Parmesan, toss the gnocchi in the sauce briefly to coat, adding a little of the cooking water if you think the sauce needs loosening. Serve with a little extra Parmesan over the top.
'Made in Sicily: Food and Stories' by Giorgio Locatelli, £30, Fourth Estate, out 6 OctoberReuse content