Gnocchi and Tomato Pancetta Sauce
- 2 large russet ( baking potatoes)
- 3 -4 cups flour
- TOMATO/ PANCETTA SAUCE:
- Olive oil
- 8 slices thick (bacon thickness) pancetta, chopped
- 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, depending on you desire for spice
- 1/4 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped (or 1 tablespoon dried parsley)
- 2 to 3 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 (28-ounce) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
Boil the potatoes until fork tender (not mushy). As soon as they are done, remove from the water and place in a dish. Remove the skin from the potatoes using a sharp knife or fork. Cut the potatoes into pieces and process the peeled, hot potatoes through a food mill using the medium disk.
Place a mound of flour, about 2 1/2 cups to start, on your work surface (a floured board). Place all of the processed potatoes on top of the flour. Knead the flour/potato mixture with your hands until the dough is smooth; free of lumps, but yet still a little sticky. This recipe does not lend itself to making the dough in the food processor or mixer. Keep adding flour as necessary to obtain the desired consistency. The amount of the flour needed depends on how much water is in the potatoes, the moisture in the air, etc. Sometimes it can take up to 4 cups to obtain the right consistency. Keep kneading until it is right.
After kneading the dough, place it under a dry kitchen towel to keep it warm. Immediately start making the gnocchi. This dough must be used right away. Cut a small piece off of the dough. Roll the piece into a "log" that is approximately 12 to 16 inches long. The log should be about 1/2-inch in diameter. You do not want it too wide or the gnocchi get too "fat." Cut the "log" into pieces about 1-inch long. You will end up with about 12 to16 gnocchi per log. The next step is to form the gnocchi.
Take a fork in your left hand (if you are right handed), and hold it straight up with the tines facing towards the ceiling. With your index finger of your right hand, take 1 piece of gnocchi (the 1-inch pieces that you cut above), and starting at the top of the fork, roll the piece down the inside tine of the fork. This should be done with firm pressure (not too firm as to smash the gnocchi, but firm enough to roll the piece down the fork and leave an indentation on the gnocchi). When you get to the base of the tines, release the gnocchi and let it drop to a floured tray. The "completed" gnocchi should be marked with the fork tines on 1 side of it and have a slight indentation from your index finger on the other side of it. This shape and marking allow the pasta to "catch" the sauce when you serve it.
Proceed with all of the dough and make each piece as directed. This goes very fast once you get the hang of it. Let the pasta sit on the floured trays on you counter until ready to serve. However, serving time should be within 4 to 5 hours of making the gnocchi. Otherwise they will dry out and get tough.
To serve, boil the gnocchi in lots of boiling, salted water. As soon as the pasta rises to the top, it is done. (This is also very quick). Drain the cooked gnocchi in a colander or strainer. Place the cooked pasta in a serving platter and top/mix with the sauce.TOMATO/ PANCETTA SAUCE:
Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat until hot but not smoking. Add the chopped pancetta, red pepper flakes and parsley. Cook until the pancetta is cooked through and is slightly brown. Add the garlic; cook for another 2 minutes.
Process the tomatoes with their juice in the food processor. Pulse the tomatoes briefly until they are coarsely chopped. You do not want them to puree. Add to the cooked ingredients in the saucepan. Add salt to taste. Continue cooking on a low simmer for about 1 hour until the sauce has reduced and is somewhat thicker. You can keep cooking this for up to 3 hours. The longer you cook it, the thicker and richer it becomes. If you cook it too long, add water to reduce the thickness and you reach the desired consistency.
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