gnocchi has been on my 11 in 2011 list since before the list really existed. it's one of many foods that are tricky to make, but when they're done right, they're like little potato pillows. light and fluffy, they're perfect sauteed in butter & herbs or slathered in rich tomato sauce. good gnocchi is hard to find. apparently it's hard to make too.
so one saturday morning, when i was especially ambitious, i set out to make giada's gnocchi. i followed the instructions to a T - i wasn't going to screw this one up - microwaving the potatoes (a great time saver), peeling them, and grating them using my microplane ribbon grater. they were beautifully light and fluffy. so i continued, adding just the right amount of egg, and incorporating the flour. the dough was perfect. i rolled it out and cut it into little potato clouds, dropped them into boiling salted water, and started getting excited at my accomplishment.
not so fast. giada says to boil them for five minutes total. great. no problem. except that when i did that, the gnocchis had totally disintegrated. virtually none of them held their shape. i had a layer, at least an inch thick, of potato mush at the bottom of my pan.
it was a complete fail. needless to say i was not happy. i had a pot of bolognese (more about that in a minute) bubbling away, waiting for the gnocchi. i keep a box of spaghetti in the pantry for situations exactly like this.
i picked up the green plastic strainer at sur la table in portland last fall, when i was there for a conference. it's huge and perfect for scooping pasta, friend foods, and poached eggs.
bolognese. i've always wanted to make it the traditional way - over low heat for a long time - and have never gotten to it, simply because i'd have to dedicate an afternoon to it. lucky for me - and you - giada shortened the cooking time down to 45 minutes. yea, no kidding.
this is my new favorite go to sauce for pasta. wanna make this meatless? replace the meat with one pound of quartered mushrooms. white button, cremini, or baby portobello work great. we had half a pound of meatloaf mix in the freezer, so i used that instead of beef. use whatever you have on hand or prefer.
giada's quick bolognese
adapted from giada de laurentiis
45 minutes, serves 4 adults
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 celery stalks, diced
4 carrots, diced
1/2 pound ground beef, meatloaf mix (my grocery store's mix is 80% beef, 15% veal, 5% pork), or 1 pound quartered mushrooms
28 ounces crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated romano or parmesan cheese plus more for serving
- in a large dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.
- add the celery and carrots. cook until the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes.
- add the meat or mushrooms, and cook until meat is no longer pink or the mushrooms are soft, 6 to 8 minutes.
- stir in the tomatoes, parsley, and basil. cover and bring to a boil. reduce to simmer and cook about 30 minutes.
- season with salt and pepper and stir in the cheese.
- serve over pasta.