The Italian Dumpling- Gnocchi

These potato dumplings, traditionally served as a first course, are small bites of heaven.   Although most people associate this dish with Italian cuisine, versions of this dish exist around the world; Croatia, France, and South America all have variations of the dish. The word “gnocchi” is derived from the Italian word “nocchio,” meaning a “knot in wood.” Most Italian chefs say that the secret behind perfect gnocchi is the right potato. The best are ones high in starch and low in water content, such as the russet potato. The less water in the dough, the less gummy it will be.  It is said that the gnocchi is perhaps one of the oldest recorded dishes that can be found, and when you actually try them there is no wonder why they have survived for so long. These delightful Italian little dumplings are and absolutely fantastic dish, and they can be found in several variations. As with many Italian dishes, region can play a large role in the type of gnocchi you can find. Each version tenderly preserved through time with a recipe that can easily stem back to the early 1300th century Tuscans. This is a very simple recipe to make, and while it is easy you can find many that will put a twist on this recipe to make it their own.  The Gnocchi is a recipe that is very old, and apparently it does have quite the clan. There are more Gnocchi variations than you can shake a stick at, and all of which are dependant on where you are in Italy. I am introducing you to a southern Italian variety from Naples made with potatoes and another variety popular in Florence, Italy  made with ricotta cheese and spinach   These dumplings in their early stages are often confused with pasta, but truth be
told they are actually even older than pasta itself. The similarities are not reserved for the appearance either, as the dressings for the two dishes are quite similar as well. It is clear however to those that are experienced that Gnocchi and pasta are not the same dish. Someone unfamiliar with the ways in Italy or the general foods can easily become confused and assume that they are in fact one and the same.

The Most Famous Of All – The Potato Gnocchi

Easily the most delightful and famous of all Gnocchi dishes is the Potato Gnocchi  served with an authentic southern Italian marinara sauce like our very own 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce. In Naples we like to serve our Gnocchi with chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese and lots of marinara sauce.

From Naples, Italy Gnocchi
Serves: 12 servings of gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds russet potatoes
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg extra large
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup olive  oil
  • 2 jars of 825 MAIN Marinara

Directions:

Boil the whole potatoes until they are soft (about 45 minutes). While still warm, peel and
pass through vegetable mill  or mash onto clean pasta board.

Set 6 quarts of water to boil in a large spaghetti pot. Set up ice bath with 6 cups ice and 6 cups water near boiling water.

Make well in center of potatoes and sprinkle all over with flour, using all the flour. Place egg and salt in center of well and using a fork, stir into flour and potatoes, just like making normal pasta. Once egg is mixed in, bring dough together, kneading gently until a ball is formed. Knead gently another 4 minutes until ball is dry to touch.

Roll baseball-sized ball of dough into 3/4-inch diameter dowels and cut dowels into
1-inch long pieces. To make decorative gnocchi flick pieces off of fork or concave side of cheese grater until dowel is finished. Drop these pieces into boiling water and cook until they float (about 1 minute). Meanwhile, continue with remaining dough, forming dowels, cutting into 1-inch pieces and flicking off of fork. As gnocchi float to top of boiling water, remove them to ice bath. Continue until all have been cooled off. Let sit several minutes in bath and drain from ice and water. Toss with 1/2 cup olive oil and store covered in refrigerator up to 48 hours until ready to serve. And serve with 825 MAIN Marinara Sauce.

 From Florence, Italy –  Gnudi – Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 pound frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus 1 cup for coating
  • Jar of 825 MAIN Marinara

Directions:

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

In a large bowl, mix ricotta, spinach, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and yolks. Stir in
nutmeg, salt, pepper, and flour. Form mixture in to small, flattened balls.

Dredge the formed gnudi in flour to coat, tapping off the excess. Slide formed gnudi into the boiling water. Be careful not to overcrowd the pan; work in batches if necessary. Remove the gnudi using a slotted spoon after they float to the top nd have cooked for about 4 minutes.

Arrange gnudi on a platter and lightly drizzle with  825 MAIN Marinara sauce.

“Beware of the Ides of March”

  March 15th,  The Ides of March

For those of you who are not aware of the significance of the Ides of March, according to the Roman calendar, it is the date signifying the beginning of spring and there was a huge celebration in the city of Rome. The Soothsayers warned Julius Caesar to “beware of the Ides of March,” which of course he didn’t listen to and was stabbed to death by his best friend Marcus Brutus. Thus the phrase “et tu brutus”.  So I thought we could celebrate with this Roman holiday with Caesar Salad , a tribute to Caesar.  And a popular Roman pasta dish called Buccatini al’Amatriciana.

Caesar Salad

Caesar salad is so much better when tossed with fresh,
homemade dressing as in this recipe.

Ingredients:
1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. Worcestershire
5 Tbs. olive oil
2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 C. Parmesan
1 small head romaine lettuce
Croutons

Directions:   Process in the blender, all except garlic for two minutes. Crush garlic, add to other mixture, and process on high for two more minutes. Refrigerate. (Up to 1 week) Toss well with one
small head of Romaine lettuce (washed, dried and torn up), and croutons of your choice. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan.

                                                                    Bucatini All’Amatriciana

       Bucatini all”Amatricianais an ode to
simplicity – rich smoked pork, sweet tomatoes, heat from chili peppers, and the
sharp, salty kick of pecorino cheese. Because amatriciana is a classic dish it
has a long history and because it is Italian, this history is controversial and
hotly disputed. Most but not all agree that “amatriciana” comes from Amatrice,
a tiny town in the mountains bordering Abruzzo about 100 miles from Rome. (Some
Romans claim that the dish is truly alla matriciana, developed by Romans
and that Amatrice has nothing to do with such culinary bliss). Most agree that
the dish descends from gricia, a pasta dish made with pepper, cheese,
and smoked pork jowl, also known as guanciale.

Bucatini all’amatriciana has a different flavor profile than most Italian pasta. In its purest, most classic form the sauce has only four ingredients: cured pork, tomatoes, cheese, and hot peppers. Because of the recipe’s poor origins (this was the dish of shepherds, not statesmen), there is traditionally no onion, no garlic, no herbs. Because of this it tastes wildly different from the familiar Italian-American tomato sauce served with spaghetti and meatballs. The modern Roman version often adds onions, garlic, or a splash of dry white wine.
INSTRUCTIONS:
Serves 4
¾ pound guanciale, or pancetta, thinly sliced **
3 garlic cloves
1 red onion, halved and sliced ½-inch thick
1 ½ teaspoons hot red pepper flakes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups  825 MAIN Marinara
1 pound  bucatini *
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
Pecorino Romano, for grating
1. Being 6 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt.
2. Place the guanciale slices in a 12- to 14-inch sauté pan in a single layer
and cook over medium-low heat until most of the fat has been rendered from the
meat, turning occasionally. Remove the meat to a plate lined with paper towels
and discard half the fat, leaving enough to coat the garlic, onion and red
pepper flakes. Return the guanciale to the pan with the vegetables, and cook
over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until the onions, garlic and guanciale
are light golden brown. Season with salt and pepper, add the tomato sauce,
reduce the heat, and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Cook the bucatini in the boiling water according to the package directions,
until al dente. Drain the pasta and add it to the simmering sauce. Add the
parsley leaves, increase the heat to high and toss to coat. Divide the pasta
among four warmed pasta bowls. Top with freshly grated Pecorino cheese and
serve immediately.

 *What is Bucatini pasta?

Bucatini pasta is a long, hollow Italian pasta. While at first glance it might look like thick spaghetti, bucatini pasta is a very unique noodle, and it plays an important role in the cuisine of some Italian
regions. Pasta specialty stores may carry it, and it is also possible to find bucatini pasta in some grocery stores, especially in areas with a large Italian population.  The name for the pasta is derived from the Italian buco, which means “hole,” a reference to the hollow shape of bucatini pasta. It is believed that the pasta originated in central Italy. It is closely related to maccheroncelli, another long, tubular pasta. Bucatini pasta may also be found labeled as perciatelli. I grew up calling them perciatelli  and it wasn’t until I looked for them in a specialty food store that I found that they are called bucatini . All of these pastas are slightly different, but closely related enough that they can frequently be substituted for each other.
Because the pasta is dense and strong, bucatini pairs well with robust, hearty sauces, especially those which contain meat. One of the classic dishes containing bucatini pasta, Bucatini all’Amatriciana, is made with bucatini and a hearty tomato sauce with large chunks of pancetta or bacon. This sauce pairs very well with the pasta, which is ideally suited to holding up heavy sauces.

  **What is Guanciale?

     What really makes this dish is the guanciale. It’s all about the ingredients, and with a little effort, you can find them here in the US.   Guanciale is cured pork jowl. You cannot substitute it, and it can’t be smoked—only cured. Some people, not Romans, use
pancetta as a substitute, but the guanciale is sweeter, fatter, and has a more delicate and less salty taste than pancetta (cured pork belly). It melts as you heat it in the pan, and the rendered fat transports the jowl’s unique flavor throughout the dish. Touching each piece of pasta and spoonful of
sauce with it’s sweet and salty magic. Substituting it, changes the dish altogether, and should be considered a mortal sin.  If you are substituting bacon or salt pork, you want the streakiest (i.e. fattiest) cut you can find.  If guanciale is unavailable, pancetta is a fine substitute. However as you guanciale has a significantly higher fat content than pancetta. If neither guanciale nor pancetta is available in your neighborhood, you can always use a top-quality lean bacon. One can blanch bacon for one minute in boiling water to remove some of its smoky flavor. If substituting either pancetta or bacon, I would recommend adding an extra tablespoon of olive oil before sauteeing the onion to compensate for the lower fat content.