Gnocchi may be one of the most comforting Italian foods. While it takes some planning, time and technique to make your own from scratch, I find that readily available commercial products are good substitutes when the mood strikes. I greatly prefer the vacuum sealed versions over the frozen versions. To me, they have a much closer texture to fresh made gnocchi. There are some keys to pulling off a successful dish and I will discuss them below.
Gnocchi San Marzano
1 pound DeCecco Gnocchi
1 28oz can San Marzano Tomatoes
1/2 Vidalia Onion, chopped
1 8oz. package pancetta
2-3 tablespoons light cream
Fresh basil for garnish
Salt and Pepper to taste
The first key? Use a ton of water. Even more so than pasta, gnocchi like to float and be free. If the pot is too small, the gnocchi will stick together and become starchy and heavy.
First, prepare the condimento. In a sauté pan large enough to hold the gnocchi, warm a tablespoon or two of good extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion and soften over medium heat, about 5 minutes. Next add the Pancetta and slowly render the meat but don’t allow it to get crispy; 3-4 minutes over medium heat should suffice. Meanwhile, in a bowl, crush the San Marzano tomatoes with your hands so that they form a rustic, chunky texture.
Next add the tomatoes and lower the flame to medium low. Simmer the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes. At this point, taste the sauce and see if the tomato has lost that “raw” taste. If not, cook an additional 5-8 minutes. When the tomatoes have cooked enough, add the cream and check for seasoning.
As the sauce is finishing, bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt and cook the gnocchi. When you add the gnocchi, they will fall to the bottom of the pot. Stir gently with a wooden spoon. When the gnocchi are done, they will float to the top of the pot. The next key? Don’t abuse them. When the gnocchi are done, do not drain them to a colander. Remove them from the water with a slotted spoon and transfer them directly to the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, the addition of some of the pasta water will help the sauce cling to the gnocchi.
The final key? Serve immediately. Once the gnocchi are transferred to the sauce, stir them gently for a minute or two and allow them to soak up some of the flavor from the condimento. Then serve! They cannot be held on the stove or they will toughen.
What did we drink?
From my recent trip I brought back a lovely Vernaccia which I’ve been eager to try. It really worked well, but the pairing options with this dish are pretty versatile.
The 2015 Campochiarenti Vernaccia di San Gimignano is a medium gold color. This high altitude Vernaccia displays lovely aromas of lemon, white peach and white flowers. On the palate, the bright lemon flavors are punctuated by zesty acidity and dusty minerality. Medium bodied with wonderful viscosity and freshness. Hints of grass on the finish. This stood up very well to the gnocchi and is interesting enough on its own to enjoy while you cook. 89 points. About $12 Euro.