Wow! What a long week! Hard to believe it's Friday already, and you know what that means around here, right? Time for another Famous Fridays post. This week I am focusing on someone you already know pretty well or at the very least have heard of: Mario Batali! He's a co-host on The Chew, a star of The Food Network, an incredibly successful restauranteur and chef and has written no less than 8 cookbooks! With his focus on simple Italian home cooking and his use of fresh local seasonal ingredients, it's easy to see why people love him so much. That and his signature scruffy outfit-- a fleece vest, shorts and orange Crocs and his warm, effusive and passionate personality!
Are you a gnocchi person? Do you, like me, tend to gravitate towards them if they're on a menu? I don't eat them that often but I really do love them! Years ago, after having them in Italy, I came home and attempted to make my own (not with this recipe) and the results were less than stellar. You see, I thought I could get by without the aid of a potato ricer or food mill and it turns out that you really can't. So this time around I bit the bullet and bought a potato ricer (they're not all that expensive) and Boy! What a difference! These gnocchi are light, fluffy, somewhat chewy pillows of wonderfulness! Totally worth the effort! And a fun weekend project too, especially when everyone was home sick...as I said, it's been a long week. And to go along with it I made Mario's essential marinara sauce, which sounds a little presumptuous, I mean how "essential" can tomato sauce be? But once you make it, you'll come to think of it as absolutely critical to your existence too! Plus it's--easy, delicious and a not-too-overpowering match for the delicate flavor of the gnocchi.
So...first thing you do is boil some potatoes and then pass them through the aforementioned ricer, creating a huge mound of squiggly looking potatoes. Then you make a well in the center, into which you put your flour, salt and egg.
After mixing it all together, you knead the dough into a large ball which you then divide into 6 smaller balls--
Then you roll each ball into a rope and cut into small pieces.
To make the little ridges that are characteristic of most gnocchi and help sauce to cling to the pasta, you can use the tines of a fork, or as my ingenious husband devised, the blade part of an egg slicer! It works so well!!
Then all you do is boil them for a few minutes till they rise to the surface and you've got yourself an awesome bowl of homemade gnocchi!!
When that's all done you can either toss them with canola oil and store chilled for a couple of days or make your sauce and eat them right away--not much of choice, right? Or pop a few in your mouth with a bit of butter on them instantly--not that we did that--oh, no, we patiently waited for me to make the tomato sauce, because that's the kind of people we are...Right, anyway, to make the sauce, you chop up onions and garlic and saute them with some shredded carrot--
Then add in a couple of cans of whole peeled tomatoes and let the entire thing cook down for about half an hour, producing a thick, rich, slightly sweet and very tomatoey sauce which highlights rather than overpowers the delicate flavor of the gnocchi.
Remember those little ridges I talked about before and my husband's brilliance--well here they act as sauce receptors for these bite-sized potato dumplings, so each bite is a wonderful combination of chewy, delicate pasta and chunky full-flavored tomato sauce--light, ethereal, "essential" in every way! Thanks Mario!!
Mario's Gnocchi with Essential Sauce-Famous Fridays
Makes 10-12 servings of gnocchi and about 4 cups of sauce
Prep Time for Gnocchi: About 1 hour (not including boiling of potatoes); Cook Time for Gnocchi: 5 minutes; Prep Time for Sauce: 10 minutes; Cook Time for Sauce: 45 minutes
For the Gnocchi
3 pounds russet potatoes
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola oil (optional)
For the Essential Sauce
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1/2 medium carrot, shredded finely
Two 28 ounce cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juice reserved
Salt to taste
1. To make the gnocchi: Wash potatoes and place in a large saucepan. Cover them with water and bring them to a boil. Then cook at a low boil for about 45 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender. Remove from the water. As soon as you can handle them, peel the potatoes, discard the skins and pass them through a ricer or food mill onto a clean counter or board.
2. Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Then turn it down as low as possible so you can reboil it quickly when gnocchi are ready to be cooked.
3. Make a well in the center of the potato mound and sprinkle the whole thing with flour. Add the egg and salt into the well and use a fork to stir the flour, egg and potatoes together. Stir gently and carefully or you'll be covered in flour! Once everything is incorporated, form the dough into a ball and knead it gently for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky but dry to the touch.
4. Divide the dough into 6 large balls and roll each ball into a 3/4 inch diameter rope. Cut the rope into 1-inch pieces and using a fork or the cutting part of a egg slicer, score the sides of the cut pieces so that each piece has little indentations. Turn the heat up high on the water and bring to a boil again. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath and set it right next to the pot of boiling water. Working in batches, drop some of the gnocchi into the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. This can take anywhere from 2-5 minutes, depending on their size and how many you are cooking at one time. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked gnocchi, transferring them immediately to the ice bath. Let sit for several minutes in ice water so that all cooking stops. Drain and transfer to a bowl. Repeat process with rest of uncooked gnocchi.
5. At this point, you can toss with the canola oil and store them in an airtight container for 2 days in the refrigerator or serve them immediately with the Essential Sauce (see recipe below) or just some butter and parmesan cheese or any other sauce of your choice.
6. To make the Essential Sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 8-10 minutes, until they're tender and light golden brown. Add in the carrots and cook for 5 more minutes, or until the carrot is very soft. Now pour in the crushed tomatoes and the reserved juice and bring to a boil, stirring often.
7. Lower the heat and allow mixture to simmer for 30 minutes until very thick. Season with salt if necessary and serve.
8. Sauce keeps in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or can be frozen for several months.
Note: Gnocchi are adapted from Simple Italian Food-Recipes From My Two Villages by Mario Batali. Sauce is adapted from Mariobatali.com. I didn't change much but did leave out 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme as my kids don't really like that much. http://www.mariobatali.com/recipes/basic-tomato-sauce-2/