Sometimes you want to try something new, what safer way than with a pair of old friends. Hunkering down for a snowy supper with a roaring fire and just one other couple is my idea of the perfect Saturday night. It’s also the perfect opportunity to skate out on thin ice with a new recipe.
There are a few dishes I wish I could successfully make at home. Gnocchi has always been elusive. What is supposed to be light and airy turns out to be dense and doughy. So I was heartened when I saw this month’s Bon Appétit featuring new instant pasta classics. Inside was a recipe for gnudi- gnocchi’s naked little cousin.
Gnudi is essentially a pillow-like dumpling made of the interior ingredients of a ravioli, minus the outside pasta dough. They are shaped like quenelles, which I painstakingly mastered in the 70’s during my nouvelle cuisine chef days. And best of all in this recipe they are served with a fresh tomato sauce and I have one of the best homemade sauces around. So if these little gnudis bomb and I get caught with pants down I can toss my version of pompadour with a box of angel hair pasta.
Once you make this basic tomato sauce you will never reach for a jar. It’s light fresh taste is a breeze to make. Simply made with San Marzano tomatoes, chopped onion, garlic and a big sprig of fresh basil.
Crush the canned tomatoes with your hand or if that makes you queasy use a potato masher, but be careful not to splash yourself.
Sauté the onion and garlic.
Add the tomatoes and basil. Reduce until thick, stirring occasionally for about twenty minutes.
Presto- homemade tomato sauce. This can be made hours or days ahead of time. Double the recipe for it freezes wonderfully.
The base for gnudi is ricotta cheese.
Lightly beat one egg with one egg yolk.
Finely grate some good Parmesan.
Combine the ricotta, egg, yolk, Parmesan, pepper and salt in a large bowl.
Add 1/2 cup flour and stir until just combined and the mixture forms a ball. Note the mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add more flour by the tablespoonful if it feels too wet.
Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Using two soup spoons, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes by turning the spoons into one another.
Place on baking sheet and dust with more flour. (Gnudi is best made right before it is cooked. The sauce and all the components can be laid out before your guests arrive but assemble and boil right before serving.)
Cook gnudi in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, about 5-6 minutes (gnudi will quickly float to surface; continue cooking or the gnudi will be gummy in the center).
Using a slotted spoon, divide gnudi among bowls. Top with basic tomato sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
Save the angel hair for another time you might need divine intervention- because this recipe is definitely a keeper!