Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

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In between the jewelry, I’m Cooking Italy again!  This week we made Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter.  I also played “catch up” and made last week’s Arrosticini Abruzzesi – Skewered Marinated Lamb Tidbits.  I’m not a big fan of lamb, but my husband is, so I thought this would be a nice surprise for him.

tomato-sauce-butter-onionThis sauce is a wonder!  It’s a quick, simple sauce that freezes beautifully.  Use either 2 lbs. fresh tomatoes or 2 cups high quality canned plum tomatoes.  I have used both fresh tomatoes and canned San Marzano and both versions are equally wonderful.  Cook the tomatoes with half an onion and butter.  Marcella uses 5 tbs. butter, but I try to cut back a little for health reasons and will continue to do so – but only until the flavor remains unaffected! For this recipe I used 4 tbs. butter and it was fine.  Cook for 45 minutes at a slow simmer until the butter fat separates from the sauce and that’s it!  You will know when the butter separates – there will be a slight shimmer on the surface. Marcella removes the onion when finished cooking.  If in halves, I do, but sometimes I cut the onion into very thin slices and leave it in.

Next came the Potato Gnocchi.  I was a little nervous about these, specifically the shaping.  The potatoes are cooked whole, peeled, riced and mixed with potato-gnocchiflour into a soft dough.  Shape dough into a sausage-like roll about 1” in diameter, then cut into pieces about ¾” long.  Pick up each piece, put against the tines of a fork, push in slightly and roll back towards the fork handle.  The gnocchi will have a depression on one side and ridges on the other, both geometries perfect for capturing the sauce!  Most of the gnocchi in my photo show the depressed side, but there is one ridge side up, in the center at the top.  I let these sit for several hours until dinnertime, covered with a damp towel.  They were a bit sticky when it came time to cook, so next time I will try covering with a dry towel and hope they don’t dry out too much.

Cooking these also made me a bit nervous – once the gnocchi were thrown into boiling, salted water, they were theoretically done 10 seconds after rising to the surface.  I tested a few, as suggested by Marcella, to nail down the cooking time.  All my test pieces tasted gummy, so I did not have high hopes – I tried 10, 13-15 and 5-8 seconds.  Cooking was also difficult because it takes more than a few seconds to throw a batch into the boiling water, which means they rise to the surface at different times.  Also, not all pieces were the exact same size, so that also factored into how long they would take to rise to the surface.  In the end, we (my husband and I) threw them in and scooped them out as they rose to the surface.  It was a very hurried affair and difficult to keep track of exactly how long each individual piece cooked once it surfaced.  I would say they were mostly well under 10 seconds.  Next time I won’t sweat the cooking time so much!  Just remember, better to undercook than overcook.  I sauced each batch as it came out and grated fresh parmesan on the finished dish.

The last bit of our meal was the lamb.  Although I went into my butcher asking for lamb shoulder, I walked out with leg of lamb.  Don’t ask, it’s always a long story with my butcher!  The lamb had been marinated several hours earlier in olive oil, a crushed garlic clove, dried marjoram and fresh black pepper.  I put the meat on skewers and my husband grilled about 2-3 minutes per side.  Another quick and simple recipe!

Well, the sauce was fabulous as usual, very fresh tasting.  The butter tempers any tartness the tomatoes may have.  The gnocchi were wonderful!  I shouldn’t have fretted so much.  They were light and not gummy at all.  The lamb was a surprise to me – I liked it!  It didn’t taste lamb-y at all.  Alas, my son is back at college, my daughter is back at her apartment after caring for me after my surgery, so it was just my husband and myself.  But we both enjoyed everything on the menu!  We are looking forward to more Cooking Italy.
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To see what others have done and said with these recipes, please visit my friends on the Cooking Italy blogroll.  You might notice I’m the only one who doesn’t have a food blog – but I do enjoy Italian cooking!  Angela of Spinach Tiger, posts adapted versions of the recipes, but I would recommend buying the book, as Marcella Hazan sprinkles her recipes with advice, illustrations and pointers that are invaluable.

Now back to my jewelry studio!

5 Responses to Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Sauce

  1. Glennis August 30, 2009 at 12:41 pm #

    Hmmm… Your sauce looks perfect and your gnocchi so dimply! It looks good enough to eat! Your lamb looks fabulous! And I do eat lamb…no problem here! *grin* Very nice presentation my dear! Bravo!

  2. Angela@spinachtiger August 31, 2009 at 7:11 am #

    I am so happy you loved it and figured it out. You are so good at writing the details. Yes, gnocchi is one of those dishes that is a knee knocker for sure.

  3. Maria August 31, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    Thanks Glennis – it WAS good enough to eat!

    Angela – I am no longer afraid of gnocchi – and just a little bit less afraid of the next “knee-knocker” recipe that may come along. Bring ’em on!

  4. Kayte September 2, 2009 at 8:25 am #

    Great photos! All of it looks just delicious and perfect. What pretty dishware you have…just right for Italian food!

  5. Maria September 2, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Thanks Kayte! My family is from the south of France – so I have lugged back many gorgeous hand painted pieces from Provence over the years. Pretty kitchen dishes and linens are definitely a weakness of mine!