October: Gnocchi di Casentino

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Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi –

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi finish 3 with script

Buon giorno!

GNOCCHI DI CASENTINO are delicate and tender gnocchi from the Casentino Valley of Tuscany. They are very easy to make and are often found in a “ball” form unlike many other types that are formed by rolling in flour created a shell or cavatelli type shape. You can make them either way. They require very little cooking, as most gnocchi, and rise to the top of boiling water, ready to be plucked out in a matter of about 3 minutes.

Casentino? – The Casentino Valley in Tuscany also includes a beautiful mountain range. The mountains of this area have prevented much in the way of development and roads, thus leaving the area throughout history dating back to the Etruscans to its natural beauty. Because it was more difficult to access, it was left alone by conquerors. The result includes a gorgeous national park with all sorts of wildlife left to thrive undisturbed.

The typical sauce served with these gnocchi is a simple melted butter with some grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. A light tomato sauce – or Pommodoro Sauce is nice also.

This recipe makes plenty as the amount indicates, so they are the perfect candidate for FREEZING and saving for another meal. They can easily be made and frozen weeks ahead – only to be pulled out at the last minute from the freezer and dropped frozen into boiling salted water. This leaves you plenty of time to do other things to prepare for your meal – or just relax!

These are really heavenly! You will love them!

GNOCCHI DI CASENTINO

(SPINACH AND RICOTTA GNOCCHI)

Makes enough for 2 servings for 4

Prep: about an hour

Cook: about 3-4 minutes

Ingredients

2 Cups Flour and 1/2 C. Flour separated

2 C. Whole Milk Ricotta

1 lb. Fresh Spinach

2 Large Eggs

Pinch Salt

1/2 Cup Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano

1 Stick Butter

Grated Cheese to serve

Nutmeg grated to taste

Instructions

Cook Spinach in  boiling water until tender – about 4-5 minutes. Drain it well and then after cooling a bit, press it between paper towels or a tea towel to get as much water out as possible. You want it to be very dry.

Now chop the spinach finely.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 1

To your food processor bowl place: 2 C. Flour, ricotta, eggs, salt, Parmigiano, and spinach. Give this mixture a few turns in the processor until it comes together. It will be sticky.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 2

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 3

Turn the mixture out onto a floured board and pull together into a ball – while adding some or all of the remaining 1/2 C. Flour as needed.

Roll balls from this dough and place them in a single layer on a floured pan or surface.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi 4

If freezing for later use – place them on a sheet pan in a single layer and freeze. When frozen, place them in a plastic bag and freeze. When ready to use – keep them frozen and add them to boiling water in thirds. Do NOT thaw! Cook 1/3 at a time in the boiling water, removing to your serving plate with a slotted spoon or Spider. Drain well.

This recipe makes plenty for 2 meals for 4 people.

When ready to serve, melt a stick of butter and pour over the gnocchi in a serving plate. Sprinkle with grated or shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi finish 1

Sprinkle with a little freshly ground nutmeg.

PARLA COME MANGI!

 Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Gnocchetti with Shrimp Sauce

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Celebrate Carnevale!

Shrimp Sauce with Gnocchetti finish 1 with script

Buon giorno!

Carnevale begins in Italy and with it come the hearty luscious and tastefully extravagant dishes everyone loves at this time of year – lasagna, gnocchi, tortellini etc. The heavier the better is expected during this time of revelry and otherwise throwing all caution to the wind especially regarding food. Along with the masks and costumes come the favorite dishes of each region. Everyone is mindful that when Carnevale ends, Lent begins, along with abstinence from the foods we love best. Let’s celebrate this festival season with GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE – a both decadent and comforting dish which is wonderful to eat and serve anytime but especially in celebration of Carnevale and the weeks leading up to Lent and its more, shall we say, spartan dining.

Gnocchetti?? Most of us are familiar with gnocchi, but what are gnocchetti? They are simply tiny gnocchi in the shape of little balls. They are made in exactly the same way – using the potato dough. The difference is that you cut them in a smaller size and roll them into little balls instead of leaving them as pillows or rolling them in more of a cavatelli shape as many are used to. This is very easy to do. You can make them ahead and freeze them by laying them out on a tray in a single layer – freezing them and then dropping them in plastic bags  to keep frozen until ready to cook.

For more information on gnocchi making, see this post: Gnocchi – It’s Pillow Talk!

Cooking gnocchi and gnocchetti: If frozen, defrosting gnocchi or gnocchetti before cooking is not only unnecessary but not advised. You simply drop them frozen into boiling water and wait a minute or two for them to rise to the top – then scoop them out with a slotted spoon or strainer. I like to cook them in a shallow pan instead of a big pot – maybe a third at a time. This prevents clumping and sticking together.

The Shrimp Sauce: This is a beautiful sauce – just perfect for gnocchi or gnocchetti. It has tremendous flavor and has a great comfort factor. The best part is that it is easy to make!

This is a terrific way to usher in the joyous Carnevale season, but this is far too special a dish to save for once a year. Serve this one all year round!! A truly beautiful dish!

GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE

THE GNOCCHETTI

Makes: About 3 lb.

Prep: 90 minutes

Cook: about 2 minutes

Ingredients

5 Russet or Baking Potatoes (the BEST potatoes for making gnocchi or gnocchetti)

2 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour + a little extra for rolling

1 Tsp. Salt

2 Large Egg Yolks

Instructions

Boil the potatoes to fork tender – takes about 30-40 minutes.

When ready – let the potatoes cool for JUST a few minutes. Then peel them. A fork helps, but the skins come right off with little coaxing. I sometimes like to use disposable gloves to keep from burning my fingers.

Once peeled, put the potatoes through a ricer and let the riced potatoes fall onto a board in a mound. This is a very easy and quick step.

Gnocchi_0013a-300x225Gnocchi_0017a-300x225

Next add your flour and salt and work into the potatoes.

When partially combined, add the egg yolks and finish forming your dough to a smooth finish. This takes place pretty quickly and is a much easier dough to handle than pasta. No kneading necessary. As a matter of fact, it is discouraged for tender gnocchi. You can add a  LITTLE extra flour if needed  and your dough is too sticky to handle – but do NOT add too much.

Potato Gnocchi dough

Divide your dough into 4 balls. You can divide each ball again for easier handling if you like.

Roll each into a “snake” or rope.

Rolling Potato Gnocchi

With a knife cut the rope into 1/3 inch pieces for gnocchetti – into 1 inch pieces (pillows) for regular gnocchi. It helps to add a little flour to your knife.

Cutting gnocchetti

For gnocchetti, roll the pieces in the palms of your floured hands into little balls and place on a floured surface.

Gnocchetti balls

If freezing, freeze first in a single layer to keep them from sticking, and then place them in a plastic bag to freeze for later use.

For more instructions on step by step regular size gnocchi making like the ones below, visit this post on making gnocchi: HERE

Gnocchi_0046a-300x225

To cook the frozen gnocchetti or gnocchi, add them to boiling water straight from the freezer. Do not defrost ahead. I have had more success with using a shallow pan to cook them in rather than a large pot – less sticking. They take just a couple of minutes to cook. Once they rise to the top – they are ready for you to remove them. Use a strainer, spider, or slotted spoon. I don’t like colanders for this.

Add your sauce and garnish and enjoy!

THE SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 15 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients

1 lb. Gnocchi or Gnocchetti – cooked

3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

1 Chopped Onion

1 lb. Shrimp, cleaned and shells removed

4 Cloves Fresh Garlic – chopped finely

1 Bay Leaf

1/2 C. Parsley + some for garnish

3 Sprigs Fresh Thyme

1/8-1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes

1 Tbsp. Tomato Paste

1 Cup Dry White Wine

1 Slice Fresh Lemon Peel

1/2 C. Crushed Tomatoes (I prefer to crush my own.)

Kosher Salt and Pepper to taste

1/3 C. Mascarpone Cheese

Fresh Parsley for garnish

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a pan and cook the onion for about 5 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 1

Add the shrimp, garlic, Bay Leaf, parsley, thyme, red pepper flakes, and toss in the pan a couple of minutes to begin cooking.

Shrimp Sauce 2

Dissolve the tomato paste in the wine, and add it along with the Lemon Peel slice to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer about 4 minutes.

Shrimp Sauce 4

Add the tomatoes and salt and pepper.

Shrimp Sauce 5

Cook at a simmer for about 5 minutes. Then turn off the heat and let sit a minute to cool a bit.

Remove the Bay Leaf and Thyme sprigs and discard.

Turn your heat back on at a low level and add the Mascarpone. Stir in as it melts. DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL – SAUCE MAY SEPARATE!

Shrimp Sauce 6

Garnish with parsley.

You can use this sauce with Gnocchetti as shown or gnocchi.

Shrimp Sauce with Gnocchetti finish 2 with script

Serve your GNOCCHETTI WITH SHRIMP SAUCE with a crusty Italian bread. You might consider frying some of the bread slices in a little olive oil and serving a couple with each dish. BELLISSIMA!

PARLA COME MANGI!

 Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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March: Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce

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Cousin Bebe’s Ricotta Gnocchi-

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce - finish 1 with script

   Buon giorno!

I have this Cousin Bebe, who is an amazing mother, wife, and friend. She also cooks like a dream and is into hunting for the very best ingredients. You can already tell that we are sympatico in the ingredients department. Although – I must admit that she would walk farther for good baking chocolate than I would! Mostly, I love her because she makes me laugh on a regular basis – for that alone I would be ever grateful!

During one of our marathon conversations recently, she shared a dish with me that she loves with ricotta gnocchi and mushrooms that really sparked my interest. She said that a chef- friend of hers turned her on to it, and she was passing the idea on to me. I loved the idea immediately and ran with it! I tweaked it a little adding my own twist here and there, and my version of RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOMS was born. Bebe will find many changes to the original recipe. I hope she enjoys the new “take” on this dish!

About 5 star dishes at our house: I have a tough crowd in my kitchen with not only me critiquing dishes, but also my family. My husband, who has gained a more discerning palate over time, has ranked this dish among his “5 star” picks! He just loves it. It was kind of surprising, as he is not a big gnocchi fan – but these gnocchi changed all that. He simply loves this!

Some thoughts on this dish: It can be vegetarian although chicken broth is called for in my recipe. Change to vegetable broth if you like. I prefer the chicken – but no harm – no foul. One suggestion is that I like the gnocchi ingredients to be room temperature before making them. Also – and the Italians from birth in the crowd can appreciate this distinction – often gnocchi are fashioned ,after cutting, into “cavatelli- like” shapes by using the two finger method. In this case, I stop after cutting, leaving them in the little pillow shapes. I just like them that way in this dish – a better visual – and I think they remain light, not acquiring more flour. I find than Ricotta Gnocchi are a little lighter than potato, and weighting them down with more flour does them an injustice, I think. Believe me on this one – you can’t mess these up!

About the mushrooms: It is no surprise that I elected to use Wild Mushrooms for the sauce, as I run with any opportunity to use them. It is a love affair with me and these wild ones as many of you know having followed my recipes. I roast them first to give them a deeper flavor and added a surprise ingredient – a little Balsamic Vinegar before roasting which is subtly detectable in the finished sauce and offers another level of flavor that is only achieved by the caramelization. This addition makes the difference between just a mushroom sauce and one that immediately piques interest when it hits the palate.

Wild-mushrooms_thumb

I think of this dish as in the Northern Italian style, especially with the use of butter and mascarpone as the cooks of the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia might suggest. In Lombardia, they would probably use the wonderful Porcini mushrooms, plentiful in the lake area.

This dish requires a little time in the making of the gnocchi. The sauce – on the other hand – comes together quickly.

The gnocchi may be made ahead and frozen by spreading them out on a sheet pan – freezing them in a single layer. Then you can transfer them, once frozen, to a ziploc bag until ready to cook. Do not defrost before cooking. Drop them into the boiling water straight from the freezer.

My enthusiasm for this dish runneth over!! These gnocchi simply rock! I can’t wait for you to try them!

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

Serves: 4

Prep: 40 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes

Ingredients

2 Cups Flour +  Flour for the board

2 Large Eggs

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese – Whole Milk please

Instructions

You can start the old fashioned way by pouring the flour onto a board – making a well and placing the eggs and ricotta in the middle. Proceed by mixing the dough with clean hands.

Ricotta-Gnocchi-with-Mushroom-Sauce-1_thumb.jpg

BUT

It is much faster and easier to put the flour, eggs, and ricotta into your food processor and with a few turns, the dough comes together almost immediately! It will be sticky. Put some flour on your hands and place some flour on your board or surface. Take some of the dough out of the processor bowl with your floured hands – make a ball and roll into a 1/2-3/4 inch thick rope on your floured surface.

rope

With a sharp knife, cut the rope into small 3/4 inch sections or “pillows”. (They will look like little pillow shapes)

finished gnocchi

Continue with all of the balls until you use all the dough. Sprinkle the gnocchi with flour. (I like the gnocchi for this dish to remain in pillow shape. Often we roll the pillows each more time through flour with two fingers to roll them or over the tines of a fork. If you prefer to do this you can.)

You can make the gnocchi ahead and freeze them which makes this a very easy dish to prepare for guests. To freeze: lay the gnocchi in a single layer on a sheet and put them into the freezer. When frozen, put the gnocchi in a ziploc bag, seal and place in freezer until ready to use them. Do NOT defrost them before using.

Drop the gnocchi into rapidly boiling water (straight from the freezer if frozen). I like to boil them in 1/3’s giving them a stir after dropping them in. Remove them to a serving dish when they rise to float at the top of the water – about 3-4 minutes. Very quick!

WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE

Serves: 4

Prep: 20-25 minutes total

Ingredients

1 lb. Assorted cleaned wild mushrooms of your choosing (Regular button mushrooms can be used, but the wild ones offer a more earthy flavor to the dish.)

Olive oil to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Balsamic Vinegar to drizzle mushrooms for roasting

Salt and Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

2 Cloves Fresh Garlic – finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Fresh Rosemary Leaves

1 Tbsp. Porcini Powder  – Optional (sometimes hard to find)

3/4 C. Dry White Wine or Dry Vermouth

3/4 C. Chicken Broth

1/3 Cup Mascarpone Cheese (optional)

Grated Asiago Cheese to serve

Instructions

Spread the cleaned mushrooms on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and then follow with a light drizzle of Balsamic Vinegar. Add salt and pepper. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 4

Remove from oven – slice or leave whole and set them aside along with any juices that flowed during roasting.

Put olive oil and butter in a large fry pan, melting the butter.

Add the mushrooms, juices, garlic, rosemary, porcini powder if using, wine, and broth to the pan. At medium high heat, rapidly bubble for 6-8 minutes or until the liquid is reduced down to 1/2 and slightly concentrated. The liquid will thicken slightly.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 5

Turn off the heat. At this point, if you are using the mascarpone,which I recommend because the sauce becomes so velvety and rich – add it, stirring, and melting into the hot sauce. If you choose not to use the mascarpone – the sauce is still lovely though not as rich.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce 6

Pour the sauce and mushrooms over the cooked gnocchi. Garnish with a little Rosemary and serve with grated Asiago.

RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH WILD MUSHROOM SAUCE is such a beautiful dish to serve.It is one of those dishes you dream about later. Yeah, it’s THAT good! Although the preparation is simple, the flavors are complex. I have to agree with my husband when he says “this is a 5 star dish!”

PARLA COME MANGI!

 

Comments are welcome in the “Speak Your Mind Area” beneath this post online.

LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE

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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography

 

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November: Gorgonzola Sauce

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Recipe of the Month — November 2010

Makes enough Gorgonzola Sauce for 2 lb gnocchi (or pasta). If left over, it’s great on chicken or save it for another pasta meal! Gnocchi are available to purchase at specialty food stores and most grocery stores now. Subscribe to my blog and check out my homemade gnocchi recipe with step by step instructions.

GORGONZOLA SAUCE

Fry 1/4 lb pancetta chopped into small bits. Drain and set aside. 3 tbsp. butter 1 large clove garlic chopped finely 3 tbsp. flour 1/4 c. white wine 1 1/2 c. heavy cream warmed 4 oz Gorgonzola Dolce broken into bits ( The Dolce makes for a milder creamier sauce .) 1/4 tsp Kosher salt Freshly Ground black pepper to taste Chopped Fresh Basil for garnish. Melt butter in saucepan and add chopped garlic. Cook for about a minute. And add flour and saute in butter for a couple of min. to cook the flour a little. With heat at medium add white wine and stir for about 3 minutes.   Then add the warmed cream and stir constantly until smooth and flour is cooked in and has disappeared (about 3-4 min).  Add Gorgonzola and stir until until Gorgonzola has melted into sauce.  Add salt and black pepper to taste. Thin with a little cream or milk if sauce becomes too thick.  Pour over prepared gnocchi and sprinkle the crispy pancetta over the top. Garnish with chopped fresh basil.

PARLA COME MANGI!

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Gnocchi With Pork Ragu

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This Pig Needs No Lipstick!

 This Pig Needs No Lipstick!

The Ultimate Sunday Sauce

Buon giorno!

 

When I think of Gnocchi, I automatically envision the Classic Tuscan dish, Gnocchi con Sugo Cinghiale or Gnocchi with Wild Boar Sauce. Since today’s grocery meat department is generally devoid of wild boar, my taste reverts to making MY favorite preparation of Gnocchi which is served with Pork Ragu . This sauce is, in my mind and heart, the standard among tomato sauces and can be used with so many types of pasta. It is easy and not expensive to prepare. This sauce illustrates the saying “Appetito vien mangiando” or Appetite comes with eating, as this is the sauce that brings an appetite to life! I like to use different sauces with my Gnocchi, but I suggest this Pork Ragu is the signature and reminds me most of that mouth watering Boar Sauce that is steeped in Tuscan tradition!

As I was growing up in our little house in Binghamton, New York, this was the type of sauce (with a couple of minor additions from me) that my mother, Loretta, most often made. It was Sunday Sauce. I can hear her say “the most flavorful sauce is made with pork – especially the bones!” The aroma of this pork sauce would permeate the house for hours, and I would wait for the moment when she would call me to “taste” the sauce. This taste test consisted of a piece of crusty Italian bread and a spoonful of the hot sauce on top. It brought a burst of flavor on the tongue and would wet my appetite for the meal to follow. I often sneaked a second taste when her attention was diverted.

Speaking of sneaking, my father, Attilio, would inevitably “slip” something into the sauce that Loretta did not know about. If asked, he called it “Sale da Gaeta”. (Translation: Salt from Gaeta – Gaeta being a city on the water between Rome and Naples from where the famous and wonderful wrinkly olives hail) Whenever a dish was especially delicious, he announced “Ah! It’s Sale da Gaeta!” None of us ever saw this “special salt” and very often, we assumed that his little addition to the recipe was usually red pepper flakes or “hot pepper” as he called it! He always had a container of this at the dinner table where he liked to add just a little more heat! (Hear more about Loretta and Attilio at“About Linda” at Linda’s Italian Table)

Each region of Italy seems to treat this sauce a little differently. Each area uses a different meat or combination of meats. Some use boar, some venison, some pork, beef, veal or all three. My mother, using the pork, left the meat on the bone alla Napoletana instead of shredding it Tuscan style. Everyone, then, received a large piece of meat still on the bone which was served separately after the pasta course and before the salad which is the traditional Italian style of presenting the meal.

When selecting the pork for this dish, it is your choice. Some even prefer to use Italian Sausage. When I choose to use sausage in any sauce, I always like a combination of sweet (mild) and hot. My family would almost always be most likely to use a cut of pork with the bones, and sometimes would combine both sausage and pork in the sauce. For Gnocchi, my personal preference is to use just the pork with bones. After the pork is shredded, it becomes very tender and surprisingly light with the Gnocchi. Any very inexpensive cut of pork from neck bones to ribs – anything really – can be used here. The desired effect is a combination of intense flavor and tender meat. The meat will cook in the sauce so long that it will tenderize and fall from the bone making it easy to serve. Andiamo!
 
 PORK RAGU!

About 3 lb pork on bones, can be ribs, neck bones or other

 

 

 

 

1/4 lb pancetta diced

4 cloves garlic – chopped finely

4 tbsp olive oil

1 onion chopped – the sweeter the onion the sweeter the sauce!

1 stalk celery chopped

8 baby carrots chopped in very small pieces ( baby carrots are sweeter!)

1 c. red Italian wine (vino rosso) – could be a Chianti or Valpolicella

2 28 oz cans San Marzano Tomatoes- if you can find them because San Marzano tomatoes are by far the tastiest – if you can’t – use other- can use crushed or whole peeled and crush them

1/2 c. chopped Fresh Flat (preferable) Leaf Italian Parsley

1/2 cup chopped Fresh Basil

2 Tbsp chopped Fresh Oregano

1 tsp sugar

1 – 1 1/2 tsp Kosher salt (to taste)

6-7 twists of the Black Pepper grinder

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Fresh Basil chopped for garnish

Begin by just browning the pancetta pieces.

Add the olive oil and then the garlic and pork with heat at medium being careful not to let the garlic burn.

Just brown each side of the pork as it will cook thoroughly in the sauce. Remove the pork pieces, set aside, and add the onion, celery, and carrots. Stir occasionally and cook these vegetables about 5 min until just tender.

Then add the browned meat back to the pan followed by the wine.Scrape the bottom of the pan a little to release the small bits from the bottom of the pan, turning the meat to let the wine seep into both sides. Cook the wine for about 2-3 min at medium high and let it bubble.

Then add the San Marzano Tomatoes, and all herbs and remaining seasoning including the sugar. ( Loretta and Attilio would be taken aback by this last addition as they used to whisper “so and so puts sugar in their sauce” as if some law had been broken.) In ancient times, sugar was said to be used only by the wealthy as it was considered dear. In our household it was – GASP ! – the Cardinal Sin.

My personal take on this is that the sugar cuts the acidity of the tomatoes and adds a little balance to the sauce.

If you have a rind or a piece of one from your Parmigiano-Reggiano, go ahead and drop it in the sauce as it simmers! It will add another level of flavor.

Simmer this sauce on low heat for about 3 hours – stirring occasionally. I like to cover mine while simmering. You know it’s done when the meat is so tender that is falls easily from the bones.

When sauce is finished, remove the pork pieces to a separate dish. the meat should be falling off the bones and you might have to “fish” for it.

The next step is familiar to those especially in the South who make barbecue. Take 2 forks and gently use them to shred the meat pulling in opposite directions.

Discard the bones and the fat. You might want to stir a couple of tablespoons of the sauce into the meat. I like to keep the meat separate from the sauce until serving time.

To serve, prepare the gnocchi as directed in last week’s post “Making Gnocchi” and place it in a serving dish bathing it in the delicious sauce. I take the shredded pork and mound it in the middle.

Garnish with chopped Fresh Basil and present to your guests with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese.

This makes a large amount of sauce, so what you do not use can be frozen for another great pasta meal – perhaps with Pappardelle!

My favorite accompaniment to this meal is a Zenato Valpolicella Superiore Doc 2007. .

PARLA COME MANGI!

**Also: See the new November RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE – for another great sauce recipe for GNOCCHI!

Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography

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Gnocchi: Its Pillow Talk!

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PILLOW TALK – THE ART OF MAKING GNOCCHI!

Finished Gnocchi – ready to cook or store

Buon Giorno!

Let’s make GNOCCHI – Step by Step!

Gnocchi – my favorite thing! Exactly how many “favorite” things will you catch me claiming? Careful… when it comes to Italian food my list is just out of control! Making Gnocchi at home is such a rewarding experience for fun in the kitchen, as well as, sheer bliss on a plate that I look for any opportunity to create those tasty little “pillow-like” nuggets.

What is Gnocchi exactly? Gnocchi can be made of many different things but most often potatoes. They are thought to have originated in the Middle East, but Italy definitely put them on the map! Many countries offer a dumpling-like dish that is similar but usually do not include eggs in their recipes.

When I was growing up, very few people outside of Italians knew about or spoke about Gnocchi. Now they are common on most good Italian menus. In Rome, they are traditionally served on Thursday nights. In areas of South America which have a strong Italian influence, such as Argentina, they serve them on the 29th of the month. It is said that if this practice is followed, one is assured of having enough cash for the rest of the month. I have nothing to add in the way of personal experience in that regard! However, in our home, Gnocchi was not reserved for holidays or special times. It was a regular Tuesday night kind of dish. My mother would make them quickly and with little fuss – many times with a simple sauce of fresh tomatoes and basil.

The word Gnocchi means lump or knot or sometimes referred to as “little pillows”. It is one of the most mispronounced Italian words I think I have ever encountered. In Italian, the letters gn appearing together is pronounced as if they were ny with the y treated as a consonant. Thus, the pronunciation “ny-okey”.

The style and appearance of Gnocchi differs in Italian kitchens depending upon region and preference. Some are ridged like little shells. Others look somewhat like Cavatelli pasta with a slight roll to them causing a pocket which always holds just a tiny bit of extra saucy goodness. Some cooks leave them as the simple pillow shape that is created when they are cut and prefer not to include the last step of rolling or ridging them. In our home, my mother, Loretta, did not ridge them. She simply and quickly rolled them with seemingly lightening speed in flour with her 2 fingers, creating the famous “pocket” which collect the sauce. Pow, pow, pow – they would fly as if on a cushion of air and always “knew” to land in the growing hill of Gnocchi rapidly mounting on the other side of the small table. Personally, I have adopted the ridged look for the Gnocchi I make in my kitchen. I think the ridges add just a little extra interest and texture when eating them.

When prepared well, Gnocchi are light and rich – to the point of being almost addictive. You should be able to bite through them softly not like a piece of cheese that needs extra chewing – and not like hockey pucks from the addition of too much flour. Loretta used to instruct that the Gnocchi should not hit the stomach like “lead bombs” while at the same time, should not be mushy and pasty like mashed potatoes. Little bits of heaven, Gnocchi should approach the tongue as soft, light puffs that seem to marry with any sauce to which you introduce them. In Firenze, they were called “strozzapreti” or priest stranglers – maybe because they could not stop eating them or ate them to quickly. Are they that good? Yes indeed they are! Let’s get to it!

GNOCCHI

5 Large Potatoes – skins on (IMPORTANT: use a starchy potato like russet or baking)

Boil in salted water about 30 minutes til tender (longer if potatoes are larger)

Remove potatoes from water and peel the skins off while hot. Using a fork helps. Also, I sometimes like to use surgical gloves to keep from burning my hands. (OUCH! This is why I often refer to Gnocchi Making as the “Agony and the Ecstasy” – just a little pain to achieve a magnificent result.)

Put hot peeled potatoes through a ricer and set aside.

2 1/2 c. flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 egg yolks

Mix flour and salt together.

Mix 1/2 of flour/salt mixture with riced potatoes.

Mix slightly and add rest of flour and mix together.

Then add egg yolks.

Knead just until you have a smooth dough. Add flour if needed in scant tablespoons. Do not over work your dough, as this will toughen it and make your Gnocchi heavier. Do all of this while potatoes are hot so that dough will still be warm when finished.

Divide your dough into quarters.

Roll each quarter into a rope and cut in 1 inch pieces.

Some like to call it “a day “ at this point and accept the Gnocchi as pillow shaped. I much prefer the extra step of taking each little pillow and rolling it on the back of a floured fork. This makes the famous little ridges and the little “pocket”.

When finished, you can throw them immediately into boiling water, waiting for them to surface, and then cooking for 2 more minutes. Drain – Add your sauce and serve.

OR

TO FREEZE: lay the Gnocchi in a single layer on a pan and freeze. When frozen, drop them into freezer bags for later use. Do not defrost to cook – just drop directly into boiling water from the freezer.

**NEXT WEEK ON MY ITALIAN DISH – my favorite sauce for Gnocchi based on an old Tuscan tradition.

**Also: Coming in November to RECIPE OF THE MONTH on LINDA’S ITALIAN TABLE – another great sauce recipe for GNOCCHI!

PARLA COME MANGI!

Food Photos by Tommy Hanks Photography

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