Saturday, October 10, 2009

Baked Potato Gnocchi with Gussied Up Marinara


Sometimes I find inspiration from the weirdest places. This time it was from the television show House. Yup...the show about a cranky, yet brilliant, doctor. Weird

Last week, House was trying to transfer his addictive qualities to something more productive and started cooking. During the course of the show he mentioned that making homemade gnocchi with baked potatoes rather than boiled potatoes makes them lighter and fluffier.

It never even occurred to me to make homemade gnocchi let alone the difference between methods, so I considered this a challenge. I found a great recipe for the gnocchi from Simply Recipes and a recipe for gussied up marinara sauce from the Bride & Groom Cookbook.

The result had my husband declaring me a genius cook. If only he knew how easy it was...

Baked Potato Gnocchi

2 lbs whole baking potatoes
2 beaten egg yolks
1 1/2 cups flour, sifted
Pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spear the potatoes with fork tines in several places around each potato to vent moisture as the potatoes cook. Bake the potatoes directly on oven rack in their skins for 60 - 75 minutes until tender. Let cool on a baking rack for 15 minutes, cutting them open to help cool and let more moisture escape.

2. When potatoes are still warm but not hot, scoop out the potatoes from their skins. Pass the potatoes through a potato ricer and into a large bowl. (I didn't have a potato ricer but mashed the potatoes by hand and fluff them up a bit with a fork.)

3. Add the flour, egg and a pinch of salt. Mix by hand until you have a nice pliable ball of dough. Do not over mix.

4. Prepare a work area and dust it with flour. Take the dough, a baseball-sized piece at a time, and roll it out gently with your hands until you have rolls about 3/4 inch in diameter. It is very important to keep a light touch while you are rolling the dough. Gently roll the dough with your fingertips while while exerting the lightest pressure outwards, not down, to draw the dough out.

5. Cut the tubes of dough into pieces about one inch long. Using either the tines of a fork or your fingertip, press against a piece of the dough and roll it slightly to form an indentation (good for catching the sauce). As the gnocchi are made, place them on flat baking pan, lightly dusted with flour or lined with wax paper. At this point you can freeze the gnocchi ahead of time. Freeze them first on a floured or lined tray, then once frozen you can put them into a freezer bag for more easy storage. To cook, just put the frozen gnocchi into the boiling water for the next step.

6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil in a shallow saucepan. Gently drop the gnocchi, about 10 at a time, into the water (the frozen gnocchi cool off the boiling water fast and alter the cooking time if you do too many). As soon as they rise to the surface, remove them with a slotted spoon, draining well. Arrange on a warm serving dish. Continue cooking the gnocchi in the same manner.

7. As soon as all the gnocchi are ready, pour heated pasta sauce (recipe below) over them and sprinkle with the Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Gussied Up Marinara Sauce

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 cup Chopped Onion
1 tbsp Chopped Garlic
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1/2 lb Spicy Italian Sausage - casing removed and crumbled
1 jar Newman's Own Marinara Sauce
3/4 tsp Sugar
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp chopped or julienned fresh basil

Heat olive oil in medium heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the sausage and continue to cook until sausage is done and onions are translucent. Add the prepared spaghetti sauce, sugar, and oregano and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in the butter and basil. Taste and adjust seasoning. Sauce will keep, covered and refrigerated, for 1 week.