One spring day some years ago, while I was still living in my first Berlin flat, I was hanging out with my German neighbour. Corinna was excited with the idea to go to the countryside somewhere in east Berlin to collect the leaves from a plant and to make a pesto with them. She informed me that Bärlauch grows wild in the region and this was the right season to get it.
Some day later, she knocked on my door and presented me with a small jar filled with a pesto sauce. She offered me some to try it, warning me not to use too much because it is quite intense with a strong, garlicky taste. I took it gladly and soon after I cooked some pasta that I dressed with the pesto. It had indeed a strong garlicky taste that was pronounced in my breath for quite some time after, similarly like when you eat raw garlic.
Bärlauch translates to bear’s leek but mostly is known as wild garlic. It is a flowering plant, a wild relative of onion that grows in Europe and Asia. Its leaves are long, elliptical, and bright green. They are edible and can be used in salads, soups, and sauces, with pesto being probably the most typical preparation.
Unfortunately, after that first time, I have not succeeded to go by myself and collect bärlauch in the countryside. However, every spring I always find it in some farmers’ market and I get always a bunch to make a pesto. This year, I thought to combine it with the ‘half-brother’ of pasta that is the potato gnocchi.
The combination came out really good, I loved it, and here it is!
Potato Gnocchi with Bärlauch Pesto
a bunch of bärlauch
dried tomatoes (soaked in advance for few hours in water)
sultana raisins (soaked in advance for few hours in water)
nuts of your preference
extra-virgin olive oil (a good espresso cup)
hard cheese (optional)
* When I make pesto, I am using water to adjust consistency as not to spend too much olive oil. To get some extra flavour, I used the water in which the dried tomatoes were left to soak.
- Wash the leaves of bärlauch and add them together with the rest of the dried ingredients in a food blender.
- Add the extra-virgin olive oil. Add some of the water and start blending.
- Adjust consistency by adding more water if needed.
- Season with salt, pepper, and a bit of vinegar, if you fancy getting some acidic note.
- Add some cheese or let it vegan.
Potato gnocchi (this makes 2-3 portions)
500 gr potatoes*
150 gr white flour**
one egg yolk
* For gnocchi works better to use starchy potatoes (named ‘mehlig’ in German).
** The amount of flour is relative. The point is to use as less flour as possible. I found that for me it is hard to go lower than using 1/3 (weight-to-weight) of flour compared to potatoes.
- Add the potatoes in a pot and cover them with cold water. Bring to boil, reduce the heat, and cook them until tender throughout (try not to overcook them).
- When still hot, peel them and mash them by passing them through a ricer. Let them cool down just for a few minutes and proceed with the dough.
- Spread the flour over a working surface, add the mashed potatoes, the egg yolk, and the seasonings (salt/pepper/nutmeg).
- Work the mix with your hands trying to bring everything together. Do not really knead the dough as you would do with pasta. Just work it gently until the flour is incorporated and everything comes together in a ball that is moist but not sticky.
- Let it rest for a couple of minutes and then cut small pieces with a knife.
- With confidence, press each piece and roll it using the palms of your hands to a thick rod. If it feels fragile, try to be gentle and stick back each part that feels breaking. While rolling, use some flour if needed.
- Dust with flour and cut the rods into small pieces, roughly the size of big cherries.
- Shape the gnocchi either using the traditional gnocchi board or roll each piece between the palms of your hands as you would do with meatballs.
- Cook the gnocchi in boiling and well-salted water for a few minutes, until they pop up on top.
- Remove them with a strainer and add them directly into a bowl with the sauce. Mix well, serve and enjoy!