Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gnocchi al Passata di Pomodoro

Gnocchi are one of my favorite pastas to make.  It is fun and it is non stop finger work.  The sauce I made for the gnocchi was the choice of a great Italian chef I apprenticed for.  It is very simple and is perfect for this pasta.  The sauce has very few ingredients and it does not overpower the delicate gnocchi flavor.  This sauce and gnocchi are a very well thought out combination that may sound bland, but the taste of this dish will dispel that notion!
     Remember, you do not need to add a ton of extra ingredients to make a great Italian dinner.  Simple, exacting perfection, good cooking techniques and top quality ingredients is what makes true Italian cooking great!
     Passata means pass through a sieve or to puree.
     Passata di Pomodoro recipe:  Saute a very fine chopped onion and a few very fine chopped garlic cloves in olive oil over medium heat.  (The amount of olive oil should be about one tenth of the amount of tomatoes for this sauce.)
     Cook the onions till they are almost clear colored.  (Do not brown the onions and garlic at all!)
     Add some good quality canned imported Italian plum tomato puree and an equal amount of quality canned imported Italian crushed plum tomato to the pot.
     Add some sea salt and black pepper.  (Do not add any basil or oregano at all!)
     Let the sauce simmer on low heat.  Stir the sauce often.  It does not take long to cook this sauce.  When the sauce tightens a little and there is no loose tomato juice showing, then the sauce is done. 
     Press the Passata di Pomodoro sauce through a fine sieve or run it through a food mill to puree the sauce. 
     Gnocchi recipe:  Boil some potatoes till they are starchy and very soft.  (I used Yukon Gold and Yukon Bliss for one batch of gnocchi.  I made a second batch with Purple Peru potatoes just for the extra color.) 
     Cool the potatoes under cool running water. 
     Peel the skins off of the potatoes with your fingers or the back of a paring knife. 
     Thoroughly mash the potatoes in a mixing bowl. 
     Add almost an equal amount of flour. 
     Add a dash of sea salt and a dash of nutmeg. 
     Add a little bit of whisked egg.  (The proportion is 2 cups potato, about 1 1/2 cups flour and one egg.) 
     Mix the gnocchi dough with your fingers till a light potato pasta dough is formed and it easily pulls away from the bowl and your fingers.  (You may have to add the flour a little a a time till the texture is correct.) 
     Roll the gnocchi dough out to 3/8" diameter, long thin rope shapes on a floured counter top with your hands. 
     Cut the dough ropes into one inch long segments and place them on a floured plate. 
     Use a fork to roll tiny grooves into each gnocchi and place each finished gnocchi in gently boiling water.  (Work quickly and go from rolling a gnocchi with the fork, to putting it in the pot with the fork in one quick motion.) 
     When the gnocchi float in the gently boiling water, then they are finished cooking.  Scoop the gnocchi out of the water with a fryer net.
     Place the gnocchi in a saute pan over medium low heat with some of the Passata di Pomodoro sauce in it. 
     Toss the sauce and gnocchi together gently while sprinkling a little bit of grated parmesan cheese into the sauce and gnocchi. 
     Spoon the gnocchi, sauce and parmesan cheese mix into a large pasta bowl. 
     Sprinkle a little more parmesan on top and garnish with a basil sprig. 
     If you make the gnocchi quickly and fresh, then they will have a light, delicate texture.  Perfect!  Store bought frozen gnocchi is as heavy as a lead brick.  Don't be afraid to sauce gnocchi with a little extra sauce.  The extra sauce "lightens the load" of gnocchi on the stomach.  LOL  Gnocchi is a little heavier than the average semolina pasta.  Its easy to eat too much gnocchi and then only be able to lay down and groan just like after overeating at a Thanksgiving dinner!  It is worth it though!  Ciao Baby   ...  Shawna

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