By Kate Zagorski.
"Giovedì gnocchi" as the local saying goes, and indeed it is a long-standing tradition that in Rome Thursday is the day of the week officially dedicated to the consumption of these light potato dumplings. Although many restaurants and tavole calde prepare fresh gnocchi for their daily menus, they are surprisingly simple to make at home, requiring just a little forethought to boil the potatoes and a little care to first gauge the correct consistency of the dough and then to avoid overcooking. Bad, overcooked gnocchi are sticky and sloppy but great gnocchi are a feather-light delight that melt-in-the-mouth.
Once mastered, gnocchi are a great match for many accompaniments, from a simple sugo of tomato and basil to more elaborate variations with seafood or cheese sauce. However, taking the time to make this thick, satisfying, slow-cooked sauce with sausage and pork ribs will not only create a perfect pairing for the gnocchi but may also yield enough extra leftovers to drizzle over fresh fettuccine or creamy polenta the next day.
This recipe is perfectly paired with a full-bodied, rounded red such as a good Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, try the Testarossa Rosso from the Cantina Pasetti.
For the sauce:
1 stick celery
1 clove garlic
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pork spare ribs
4 pork sausages
Half a glass white wine
700ml passata di pomodoro
For the gnocchi:
500g potatoes (of equal size)
250g flour ‘00’
Handful of grated parmesan
Pecorino Romano, to serve
To make the sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, finely chop the onion, carrot and celery and cook gently along with a whole, peeled garlic clove and a sprinkling of salt on a medium flame for 5 minutes until soft.
Prick the sausages with a fork and add to the pan along with the ribs. Cook for a further 15 minutes, turning frequently to brown on all sides.
Pour in the white wine and simmer for 4-5 minutes until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the passata, stir well and season with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on a low heat for an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure the fat from the meat is incorporated into the sauce.
To make the gnocchi:
Place the whole potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 30-40 minutes until just soft (test with fork, it should easy push through the skin). Drain and leave until just warm enough to handle then remove the skins and mash in a large bowl. Add the flour, parmesan, a good grating of nutmeg and a pinch of salt, then beat the egg and pour into the mixture. Stir together well and use your hands to bring everything together into a dough. Knead the dough until smooth and compact (be careful not to overwork the mixture or the gnocchi will become too hard when cooked). If the mixture feels too wet add a little extra flour, too dry and add a drop of water.
Sprinkle a little flour onto a work surface, divide the mixture into four equal parts and, still using your hands, roll each into a sausage shape about 2 cm thick. With a sharp knife cut into lengths about 2cm long to create the gnocchi shapes. Place the gnocchi on grease-proof paper and sprinkle with a little more flour.
When ready to cook, boil a big pan of salted water and gently add the gnocchi, when they rise to the surface (about 2-3 minutes) scoop them out with a slotted spoon and add to the gently bubbling meat sauce. Mix well and serve immediately with a good sprinkling of Pecorino Romano on top.