From Scratch: Ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce (recipe)
Simple is best when it comes to great ideas and great cooking.
In cooking, this axiom is especially true when you feature a single ingredient and allow it to shine. For example, one of my most memorable meals was a simple baked potato drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt.
What made it remarkable was that we had purchased the humble potato that afternoon from a farm stand. Being a girl from South Florida, every vegetable I’d tasted up until that moment had come from a grocery store chain. There is a noteworthy difference between food that is grown locally and that which has travelled a thousand miles to end up on our plate. Which is why I can’t wait to shop the farmers’ markets this summer in Summit County.
Until then, we can still enjoy flavor-forward dishes that are easy to prepare.
Today’s recipe for ricotta cheese gnocchi in a simple tomato sauce is an excellent example. The gnocchi are made from scratch in less than 10 minutes with only four ingredients. They are delicate pillows of cheesy heaven.
Their taste is a perfect complement to the rich flavors of the tomato sauce, which is also made from scratch with three ingredients that are likely in your pantry.
There’s no excuse not to serve this for dinner or as a starter this week. You’ll be praised from the rafters by vegetarians and carnivores alike.
If you’re feeling adventurous, make your own ricotta cheese for the gnocchi. There’s an easy four-ingredient recipe in this week’s book recommendation: “My Pantry” by Alice Waters.
Until the fruits of summer arrive, make the sauce with canned whole tomatoes. But please, try this recipe again this summer using sun-drenched tomatoes from the farmers’ market. Alice Waters’ cookbook also includes a recipe for a roasted tomato sauce that sounds delicious.
Ricotta Cheese Gnocchi
2 cups (or 15 oz. container) of whole milk ricotta cheese
2 large eggs
1½ cups of all-purpose flour
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil (add salt to the water)
2. In a large bowl gently mix together all the ingredients until combined
3. Dust your hands with flour, grab a handful of dough and gently roll it into a log on a flour-dusted cutting board
4. Using a fork, cut the log into 1-inch gnocchi. Continue the process until all the dough is cut into gnocchi.
5. Turn the boiling water down to a soft boil, otherwise the gnocchi may disintegrate in a rapidly boiling pot of water (it happened to me!) Add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook for 2-4 minutes, the gnocchi will rise to the top when they’re done.
6. Serve the gnocchi in a ‘puddle’ of tomato sauce.
Best Tomato Sauce (Marcella Hazan’s Classic)
28 oz. can of San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
5 tablespoons of butter
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1. Combine the tomatoes (with their juice), the butter, and the onion in a sauce pan. Add a pinch of salt.
2. Allow to cook uncovered for 45 minutes over a medium heat, crushing the tomatoes with the back of your spoon.
3. Discard the onion and serve the sauce.
This Week’s Book Recommendation: “My Pantry: Homemade Ingredients that Make Simple Meals Your Own” by Alice Waters with Fanny Singer.
“When I come back home from a trip, one of the first things I need to do is walk into my kitchen and look around. It always makes me feel better when I know exactly where I am. First I see, next to the stove, the old Middle Easter copper tray and on it the glass cruet of vinegar and the pepper mill and friendly little bowls of salt mixtures and chili flakes; and I open the cupboard and spot the pasta and lentils and beans and look up and see a beautiful row of jars of homemade, preserved tomatoes alternating with jars of apricots sparkling in syrup.”
With those opening sentences from Alice Waters’ sure-to-be-a-classic culinary literature, my heart and imagination were captured. I went so far as to find an old silver tray to display my pepper mill, salt, vinegar and oil, so I could be like Alice, too.
Within 30 minutes of flipping through the pages, I was in the kitchen, following her recipe for roasted eggplant caponata.
Whether you are a beginner in the kitchen or an experienced cook, you will treasure the timeless wisdom of this small book. The essential ingredients you need to create a working pantry and the foundation recipes to build your culinary repertoire are here: chicken stock, white bean crostini, make your own ricotta cheese or create a variety of sweet preserves. The pages are filled with whimsical illustrations by Fanny Singer, Alice Waters’ daughter.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson writes a food column for The Summit Daily. Join her Facebook page for live cooking videos http://www.facebook.com/SuzanneElizabeths and her blog at http://www.suzanneelizabeths.com
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