Friday, 18 November 2011
The Italian job: Potato Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu
I sometimes wonder whether we have Italian roots, the amount of Italian food we eat here. (With my colourful roots it is absolutely possible!) but though my children could probably live on pasta for evermore, I need a change and so I felt this was the answer to endless meals of fusilli or rigatoni.
Now, at the outset I think I should point out that this is the meal to choose on a Monday evening when you've just fallen in from work, tired, stressed and have hyperactive children turning your kitchen into a playroom. It's more an afternoon's work, and one where I play the role of an Italian mamma, pottering in the kitchen amidst the smell of a ragu blipping away on the stove and me absentmindedly rolling little potato dumplings whilst staring into middle distance, filling my mind with Italian thoughts (whatever they are!) Of course, you could roll and cook the gnocchi in advance, to warm through the ragu later, but that is up to you.
This is the first time I have cooked gnocchi and whilst some seemed a little squidgy, they did seem to firm up a couple of minutes or so after. I was worried that they might disintegrate when placed in the ragu but they held up pretty well, though I stirred them in gently! The other good thing, as far as Lola and Finn are concerned, is that this ragu is very tasty and would be a great sauce to go with...pasta.
The original recipe which I have adapted suggested Italian style sausages with some flavour of fennel. I daresay if I looked hard enough, I would find suitable sausages but I used good quality pork and leek here, and fried off a teaspoon of fennel seeds with the onion to try to create a fennel influence. It may not have been authentic but it tasted good.
Potato Gnocchi with Sausage Ragu, adapted from Bocca, by Jacob Kenedy.
4 tbsp oil (I used rapeseed; olive oil is fine)
1 onion, diced
454g Italian sausage (fennel seedy if possible, but pick good quality and slightly spicy), chopped into pieces.
1 tsp fennel seeds, if needed, if your sausages aren't fennel-ly
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 and a half tins of tinned chopped tomatoes (the ones with the Italian herbs in them might be nice!)
1 dessertspoon of dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
About 800g of floury potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
2 large eggs
100g plain flour (and you may need extra - see method)
A sprinkling of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
To serve: Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.
To make the sauce, fry off the onion in a suitable pan until softened and translucent, then add the sausages and fennel, if using. Cook until slightly browned. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, then add the chilli and the chopped tomatoes and oregano. Cook at a bare simmer for about 50 minutes or so until the sauce becomes concentrated and thick looking. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You're wanting a sauce that is quite strongly flavoured that will need to be punchy enough to flavour the gnocchi (or pasta!)
For the gnocchi, peel the potatoes, cut into chunks and boil in salty water. Drain, then mash or put through a ricer.
While the mash is still warm, add the eggs, flour and nutmeg and then season to taste. Ensure the mixture is well combined but don't beat it too much.
Take a small lump and roll on a floured surface. Test it in boiling water to make sure it will withstand cooking and not break up. If it doesn't you need to add a little more flour to stiffen the mixture.
Roll your gnocchi on a well floured board with well floured hands. Either make the mixture into the sausage shapes and then cut into smaller pieces about the same size and width, or else take bits of the mixture and roll into small balls.
Handle the gnocchi gently. Drop them into boiling salted water and then cook for 2 - 3 minutes, timing from when the gnocchi float to the surface. You're looking for something quite firm, but not like bullets. Once cooked they can be used immediately or else spread out on an oiled surface to chill. They can be reheated in water or directly in a sauce.
Add the gnocchi to the ragu, allow them to warm through and stir them through the ragu carefully. Serves on warm plates with plenty of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese.