Hey Ya’ll. Well this is weird.
I’m like totally posting on my own blog for once. I have been seriously terrible lately with getting around to posting on here and I need to get my butt in gear, really.
As you guys know, I have been posting my Take Out Fake Out column on HelloGiggles.com for the past few months and that has really been taking up a lot of my recipe ideas, but I need to get crackalackin’ on my own blog. It’s getting seriously neglected.
However, this week I am forcing myself to get my life together and post something because of an unfortunate circumstance that happened last week. When we got back from our vacation the weekend after last, we came home to find out that Chris’ Nonna, Ida, had passed away suddenly. It was terrible news to come home to. We lost a wonderful woman and it was difficult to say goodbye, especially for Chris who was very close with her. Not only was she a great person in general, she was an amazing cook. Unfortunately for me, by the time I came around, she was getting older and had stopped cooking the big meals that she would always make for her family. Chris always told me that she was known for cooking simple dishes, but putting so much time and attention into each thing she made. I really do love that style of cooking, nothing extravagant, no crazy new flavor combinations, just good food that was made with love. There’s something to be said about making a handful of things very well.
Chris had many dishes that he would tell me about often, her roast chicken which would be basted a million times and on the side, the crispiest oven roasted potatoes ever. Then her radicchio salad with a simple oil and vinegar dressing. And his favorite, handmade gnocchi with a simple but insanely delicious, tomato sauce.
Last week, although we had a million things to do, we decided that we had to make this Gnocchi, in honor of Ida, in honor of Nonna.
I’m not going to say anything else, the recipe can speak for itself. I hope you guys love it as much as we do! You just have to promise to put as much love and attention into it, as Nonna would have, trust me, your family will be able to taste it.
Love to you all!
Nonna’s Gnocchi & Tomato Sauce:
For the Gnocchi:
4 large russet baking potatoes
3 whole eggs
3 cups flour, plus extra for rolling out
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
For the tomato sauce:
1/4 cup canola oil
6 chicken drumsticks or thighs, bone in and skin on
1 medium onion, diced finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 16 oz can diced San Marzano tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp sugar
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and make sure an oven rack is placed in the center position of your oven. Wash your potatoes under cold water, scrubbing off any excess dirt. Pierce them all over with a fork and place them in the preheated oven, directly on the oven rack. Bake for 60-75 minutes until they are cooked through.
Meanwhile, you can get the sauce going. In a large pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Once VERY hot, add the chicken legs to the pan. Cook on the first side for 5-6 minutes until browned and crisp. Flip over and repeat. Remove the chicken to a plate (it’s not cooked but it will be cooked more in a minute) and then with the pan still on the heat, add the onion and garlic and saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until tender. Now add the tomatoes, oregano sugar and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, add the chicken back to the pan and reduce the heat to low. Allow the chicken to simmer in the sauce for 1 1/2 hours until it is fall apart tender.
At this point the potatoes should be out of the oven. Allow them to cool enough for you to handle them. With a sharp knife, cut each of the potatoes in half lengthwise to release the steam inside. Then cut them in half the opposite way so you have 4 equal quarters. Now the best way to proceed with the next step is to use a ricer, but if you don’t have one you can definitely mash them with a traditional potato masher. If you are ricing them, place a potato quarter, flesh down, in the ricer and press to push the flesh through. Then just open up the ricer and discard the potato skin. Repeat with the remaining potato and keep ricing them into a large bowl. Once all the potatoes have been put through the ricer, add the beaten egg and salt and pepper to the bowl. Then add two cups of the flour, and begin mixing. The main goal is to create a dough, adding the least amount of flour and stirring as little as possible. If the dough comes together without having to use all the flour, then that is great, however you will most likely need most or all of the 3 cups that is allotted.
Once the dough has come together, you will want to turn the dough out onto a floured surface. Knead for just 1 minute or so, and then just grab a small piece of dough and drop it into boiling water. It should float to the top after a minute or two. However, if the gnocchi falls apart, that means you have not added enough flour, if it drops to the bottom and does not float at all, you have added too much flour. This is exactly why you want to add the smallest amount of flour as possible, because you can always add more later but you can’t travel back in time and add less, at least I can’t do that…
If you need to add more flour at this point, go ahead and do that. Once your gnocchi passes the boil test, you will want to cut the dough into about 8 equal pieces, then roll out into a long snake shape. You will need to flour your hands and work surface for this. Roll it out until you have a 3/4 inch thick snake (sorry I can’t think of a better word for this) then using a knife, cut the roll into 1/2 inch wide pieces. Finish by taking a fork and rolling it over the gnocchi, this should roll the gnocchi slightly and create ridges to hold the sauce! Repeat with the rest of the dough.
At this point your 1.5 hours of cooking time should be up on the chicken. Remove the chicken to a clean plate and set aside. Give the sauce a good stir and continue simmering over low heat for another hour. As for the chicken, I was told very sternly that the chicken does not, I repeat DOES NOT, go back into the sauce. It is served on the side cause that’s just the way it is.
Now, while the sauce is on it’s last leg of cooking, get a large pot of water boiling, salt it generously and then add about 10 gnocchi. Cook just until they float to the surface, usually only a minute or so. Drain and then pour out onto a baking sheet, repeat with the gnocchi, boiling in batches.
Once the sauce is finished cooking, give it one last taste. Add seasonings if needed (sugar, salt or pepper) then you can either leave it like this or puree it. I chose the pureed route.
Once all the gnocchi are cooked, you will place a layer of them into the bottom of a 9×13 baking pan. Layer a third of the sauce over the gnocchi and then top with a 1/3 of the parmesan cheese. Repeat until you have three layers of gnocchi, sauce and cheese. There is a good chance you won’t be able to use all the gnocchi, but it is better to have too much than not enough.
Now bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes until the cheese is melted and the sauce is all hot and bubbly. Serve with the cooked chicken and a side salad and ENJOY. I really hope you love this dish as much as we do. We will cherish this recipe forever.
PS. You can totally make this up and cover and freeze it instead of baking it right away. Then when you want a quick and delicious meal you can easily pull it out of the freezer and bake it until bubbly.