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Friday, January 1, 2010

Homemade Gnocchi and Classic Meat Sauce


I first had gnocchi at a friend's house in college. Before that I had never even heard of gnocchi but it was so good. My friend's mom made "Nonna's recipe" and it was a big mystery as to what she did to make the light, fluffy potato dumplings. Then a couple years later, I was visiting the same friend and requested that we make it. This time I helped, but we'd had a couple of glasses of wine and everything went fast and somehow I learned that I needed a potato ricer and that it was important to not add too much flour and that was about it. Another year went by and I had gnocchi soup at Olive Garden and bought a couple packages in the store but it I still wanted to learn to make it myself. So I put a potato ricer on my Christmas list and decided to try. After searching several recipes online, I mixed a couple together and it turned out really well for a first attempt. While gnocchi can be made without a potato ricer, the tool gives it a much lighter, fluffier texture.

Gnocchi

2 lbs russet potatoes
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 - 2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, pierce potatoes several times with a fork, and bake for about 1 hour until fork tender. Cut the potatoes in half and cool about 5 minutes. Scoop filling out skins and process through a potato ricer over a large bowl.


Beat egg yolks and make a well in the center of potatoes. Add egg yolks and salt and about 1 cup of flour. Gently mix together with your hands until well combined. Lightly flour a large board or counter area and turn dough out. Work in another 1/4 to 1/2 cup flour as necessary until the dough holds together. It will still be slightly sticky. Divide the dough into baseball-sized balls and roll into long snakes, about 1/2" - 3/4" in diameter.

Using a sharp knife, cut into 1" sections. Continue to add flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking. Roll each section along the back of a fork, forming the lines on the gnocchi.

Transfer to a wax paper lined baking sheet and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before cooking. If you aren't going to cook them within 24 hours, freeze the gnocchi flat on baking sheet, and once frozen transfer to a freezer bag and store.



To cook, heat a large pot of water to a gently boil. Add salt and gently drop in a small amount of gnocchi, if cooking the full recipe at once, do it in 4 batches so you don't crowd the pan. Gnocchi are done when they float to the top, about 3 minutes. Scoop out floating gnocchi with a slotted spoon, draining slightly and toss with sauce.


Classic Meat Sauce

3 cans diced low sodium tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 lb lean ground turkey or beef
1 T olive oil
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T chopped, fresh basil
1 T chopped, fresh oregano
1 T dried, Italian seasoning
1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large dutch oven or heavy bottom pan, add olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add onions and cook about 3 minutes. Use a wooden spatula to make a space in the middle of the pan and add meat, breaking it up slightly. Cook about 5 minutes breaking it up as it browns. Add garlic, cook about 3 more minutes until meat is browned. Add tomatoes and Italian seasoning and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook about 30 minutes until tomatoes have broken down, add tomato paste and continue simmering an additional 30 minutes. Add basil, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste.


This makes a lot of pasta sauce, I used about 1/2 for the gnocchi recipe above and froze the other half in gallon size freezer bags.

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