Thursday, July 23, 2009

Easy Gnocchi with Thick Marinara Sauce

Tonight I'm trying out homemade gnocchi for the first time. These little potato dumplings - which literally mean "lumps" but which are also referred to as "pillows of love" - are a great alternative to pasta. The recipe I followed called for making the dough in a food processor, a process I have done a time or two for pie crust. However, the quantities called for this time around are too big for my food processor, and I had a feeling my blender wouldn't work quite as well. A little bit of internet research showed that I should probably be able to do just as well with my hands in a bowl, so that's how I did it.

First, however, make the marinara sauce. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 cups chopped onion and 2 minced garlic cloves, and saute for 4 minutes.

Stir in 2 cups chopped, seeded plum tomato, 1/2 cup tomato puree (such as Muir Glen), 1 teaspoon raw sugar, 1/2 tsp. dried oregano, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1 (8-ounce) can of tomato sauce (I also used the one from Muir Glen, here).

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes - the sauce will be slightly thickened. I actually made the sauce ahead of time, since things were about to get complicated with the gnocchi in a moment. Once done, I set the sauce aside, and simply reheated over low heat just before serving.

Before you begin making the gnocchi dough, place 4 quarts (yes quarts! that's 16 cups) of water in a Dutch oven and bring to a boil. It will take about as long for the water to boil as it will take you to make the gnocchi, so better start it up now!

For the gnocchi, begin by combining 1 cup hot water, 1 teaspoon salt, and the equivalent of one egg using egg replacer (such as Ener-G). Again, do this in a food processor if yours is large enough, or in a large bowl with a whisk if yours is not.

Spoon 1 cup all-purpose flour into a measuring cup, leveling with a knife. Add the flour, 2 cups instant potato flakes (such as Whole Foods' 365 brand), 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil and 1/8 tsp. black pepper to either your food processor or your bowl. If you have a food processor, process just until a ball forms. If you are using a bowl, stir with a fork and your hands until that ball forms - and be careful because that hot water will still be quite warm.

Turn the dough out onto an unfloured work surface. Divide into 4 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover the others, to keep them from drying), shape the dough into an 18-inch rope (like a really long breadstick). This was the part of the gnocchi that I found hardest, and I found that a combination of rolling and pinching the dough worked best, to slowly work the dough into a full 18 inches. You can also coat your hands with cooking spray if your dough is sticky, during this stage, although mine was not. Once you have a rope of 18 inches, cut into 18 equal portions with a knife. Place the gnocchi on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and set aside.

Repeat this step with your 3 remaining dough portions (so you now have 72 gnocchi total).

Place one-fourth of the gnocchi in your boiling pot of water (i.e. 18 pieces) - you don't want too many in the pot at once, so they have enough room to rise to the surface. You can set your timer for 3 minutes, which is about how long it will take the gnocchi to cook, but there's not really a need. Gnocchi tell you themselves when they are done, by rising up and floating on the surface.

Once cooked, remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place in a colander to drain. Repeat with the remaining uncooked gnocchi, 18 at a time.

When all the gnocchi are cooked, place 12 on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 1/2 a cup of the sauce, for 6 servings of 210 calories - they are best served immediately. The original recipe, called this a side dish, but it's filling enough as is for a main dish, and you can double the portions to make it even more so!

onion $1.37
plum tomato $2.19
tomato puree $3.19
tomato sauce $1.09
potato flakes $1.99
basil $2.99

Two final things: I've never before felt the need to own a slotted spoon, but for this recipe I caved and bought one, and it really was quite necessary; it only set me back about $6. Secondly, although it is true that the recipe was 'easy', don't be fooled into thinking easy means quick. I worked on the recipe start to finish for easily an hour, so it is not a quick weeknight meal. It's fun though!

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The Vegan Pantry

  • Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy
  • Vegan milk - Silk
  • Vegan Feta - Sunergia
  • Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods
  • Vegan Eggs - Ener-G
  • Vegan Butter - Earth Balance