"I've been working in hospitality for over 30 years. You kind of fall in and out of love with it," says Pietro Barbagallo. "But I've fallen back in love with being in the kitchen again and that's because I enjoy the craft of pasta and making gnocchi."

Customers in the know order it regularly: fluffy pillows in a pool of basil-infused tomato sugo, sprinkled with parmesan and mozzarella. It arrives hot from the oven, the cheese melted into a chewy, indulgent mess.

Barbagallo, who made a name for himself in Melbourne making pizza at I Carusi, says it's been difficult to turn the spotlight from pizza to pasta. When he opened Kaprica in Carlton in 2012, his gnocchi was the only pasta dish on the menu.

For this recipe the chef recommends using desiree potatoes, which are fairly floury. Avoid placing the potatoes in a food processor otherwise the dough will become sticky.

Serves 16

Ingredients:

80ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 handful of basil leaves
1kg canned diced tomatoes
salt flakes
200g parmesan, grated
450g buffalo mozzarella, chopped

Gnocchi:

800g desiree potatoes, skin on
salt flakes
1 egg yolk
200g type '00' flour

Method:

Start with the gnocchi. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender and the skins are starting to split, about 30–35 minutes. Drain well.

Meanwhile, to make the sugo, heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium–low heat. Add the garlic and basil and cook until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, season and simmer for 25–30 minutes. Once cooked, adjust the seasoning if necessary and tip into a large baking dish.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil - it's important to have this ready to cook the gnocchi as soon as they're made.

Preheat the oven to 180°C fan–forced (200° conventional).

Using a tea towel or gloves, peel the potatoes while still hot and pass through a potato ricer. Add a pinch of salt, the egg yolk and three–quarters of the flour and bring together into dough, adding a little of the remaining flour if needed. Dust the bench with flour and roll the dough into logs about 2cm thick. Cut each log into 3–4cm pieces and place in a fine sieve to shake off any excess flour.

Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in the boiling water. Once they have risen to the surface, remove with a slotted spoon, briefly drain and add to the sugo in the baking dish. Repeat for the remaining gnocchi, making sure that the water comes back to the boil each time.

Gently mix the gnocchi through the sugo, sprinkle over the parmesan to taste, scatter over the buffalo mozzarella and bake for 10–12 minutes until the mozzarella has melted.

This is an extract from The Broadsheet Melbourne Cookbook, which contains 80 recipes from the city’s best restaurants, cafes and bars.