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Gnocchi (pronounced N(Y)OK-ee), is a staple dish of Italian cuisine. They are served as a main course, and just like pasta they come with different sauces. They can be stuffed, but please don’t call them dumplings! They have nothing to do with Italian dumplings (ravioli or tortellini), the ingredients to prepare the dough are slightly different.
Gnocchi became famous in the US during the Sixties, the NYT food critic and journalist Craing Clairbone used to write about them: “One Italian specialty that has not achieved the fame of spaghetti and pizza, but one that thoroughly deserves respect, is gnocchi”.
Gnocchi are usually as big as half wine cork, what differentiate them from other types of pasta is that they are made with the addition of potatoes and are shaped with a specific tool, called “Gnocchi board”. The dough is really soft and easy to shape, and once flipped on the gnocchi board, or with a fork, you should be able to see that one side of the gnocco (the singular for gnocchi) is ridged.
You are probably wondering: is that operation really necessary? Of course it is, Italian nonnas never make mistakes or lose their time when it comes to cooking. The ridges allow the gnocchi to better absorb the sauce and accentuate the flavor once they’re melting into your mouth. Each Italian region (and each Country) has its own version of gnocchi. Tuscan gnudi are made with ricotta cheese and spinach, Sardinian malloreddus are made with semolina flour, while the most basic and known version simply uses all-purpose (or white) flour.
As often happens, when it comes about gnocchi the most common and delicious way to serve them is with tomato sauce - yes, every Italian has a childhood memory related to gnocchi al pomodoro, served hot and juicy at granny’s house -. “The result is a delicately flavored dish that is delicious when sprinkled with butter and eaten as is, or served with a tomato sauce”, wrote Mr. Claiborne.
Do you know what makes this dish so loved by Italian people? They’re super funny and easy to make.
Now it’s your turn to prepare Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce with the easy recipe below!
[RECIPE] Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce
1 ½ lbs russet potatoes (about 2)
2 cups (250 g) all purpose flour
1 egg, beaten
pinch of salt
2 oz (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, whole or finely minced
9 oz (255 g) whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by
Fresh basil leaves (optional)
Parmesan cheese, to garnish (optional)
Pinch of salt
COOK THE POTATOES
Wash the potatoes, place them in a pot with cold water and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork with no resistance.
SHAPE THE GNOCCHI
Drain the potatoes and refill the pot with salted water for cooking the pasta; bring to a boil.
Use a potato ricer or food mill to process the potatoes into a fine meal. If you don’t have a ricer or food mill, you can cut each potato in half lengthwise and grate the cut-side through a cheese grater (while holding the peel-side with a towel, since it’s hot!); the peel won’t go through the grater.
Place the processed potatoes on a cutting board and add flour, egg, and a pinch of salt and nutmeg.
Using a folding motion, gently bring the ingredients together to form a dough.
Shape the gnocchi by taking a portion of the dough, nudging it into a rope ½-inch thick, and cutting the rope into 1-inch long “pillow” shapes.
PREPARE THE SAUCE
Place a saucepan over medium heat and add the olive oil and garlic. Saute until fragrant and golden, about 1 minute.
Add the crushed tomatoes and season with a pinch of salt. Cover the saucepan and let the sauce cook for 15 minutes. Taste for salt, then set aside.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook for about 3-5 minutes or until they float to the surface. Remove them with a slotted spoon.
Toss the gnocchi with the sauce, adding more pasta water as necessary to achieve a silky, glossy texture. Taste for seasoning and add salt to taste. Serve with basil leaves and parmesan cheese.
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