Monday, February 21, 2011

Homemade Gnocchi Bake with Red Onions and Pancetta

This months Monthly Challenge was to make "red" foods for the month of February. Right off I swore I wouldn't do the obvious choices of red velvet cake or tomato based dishes..... But I was sooooooo wrong. When I did a Google search of "red foods" (seriously, look it up and you will see quite a listing!) and I came across this recipe for Gnocchi with Red Onions and Pancetta it just screamed out at me. Gnocchi has been on my list of things to make for ages now and hey, red onion count as red, right?? Ok, don't go getting all technical on me. I know that they are not really "red" but lets not get picky about things :-) 
3 large baking potatoes (Idaho, about 1 3/4 pounds)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
1 pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups all purpose flour (as needed)

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Bring the water to a boil and cook, partially covered, until the potatoes are easily pierced with a skewer but the skins are not split, about 3
5 minutes.
Drain the potatoes and let them stand just until cool enough to handle. (The hotter the potatoes are when they are peeled and riced, the lighter the gnocchi will be.) Working quickly and protecting the hand that holds the potatoes with a folded kitchen towel or oven mitt, scrape the skin from the potato with a paring knife. Press the peeled potatoes through a potato ricer. Alternatively, the potatoes can be passed through a food mill fitted with the fine disc, but a ricer makes fluffier potatoes and therefore lighter gnocchi.
 Spread the riced potatoes into a thin, even layer on the work surface, without pressing them or compacting them. Let them cool completely.

In a small bowl, beat the egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg together. Gather the cold potatoes into a mound and form a well in the center. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Knead the potato and egg mixtures together with both hands, gradually adding the grated cheese and enough of the flour, about 1 1/2 cups, to form a smooth but slightly sticky dough. It should take no longer than 3 minutes to work the flour into the potato mixture; remember, the longer the dough is kneaded, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become. As you knead the dough, it will stick to your hands and to the work surface: Repeatedly rub this rough dough from your hands and scrape it with a knife or dough scraper from the work surface back into the dough as you knead.          

      Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with some of the remaining flour. Cut the dough into six equal pieces and set off to one side of the work surface. Place one piece of dough in front of you and pat it into a rough oblong
Using both hands, in a smooth back-and-forth motion and exerting light downward pressure, roll the dough into a rope 1/2 inch thick, flouring the dough if necessary as you roll to keep it from sticking. (When you first begin making gnocchi, until your hands get the feel of the dough, you may find it easier to cut each piece of dough in half to roll it.). Slice the ropes into 1/2-inch-thick rounds. Sprinkle the rounds lightly with flour and roll each piece to prevent sticking. Repeat the whole process with the remaining pieces of dough. At this point the gnocchi must be cooked immediately or frozen.
To cook gnocchi:Bring six quarts of salted water to a vigorous boil in a large pot over high heat. Drop about half the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently, until tender, about 1 minute after they rise to the surface.
To freeze gnocchi:It is best to freeze gnocchi uncooked as soon as they are shaped. Arrange the gnocchi in a single layer on a baking pan and place the pan in a level position in the freezer. Freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Gather the frozen gnocchi into resealable freezer bags. Frozen gnocchi can be stored in the freezer for 4 to 6 weeks.
To cook frozen gnocchi:Frozen gnocchi must be cooked directly from the freezer in plenty of boiling water, or they will stick together. Bring 6 quarts salted water to a boil in each of two large pots. Shake any excess flour from the frozen gnocchi and split them between the two pots, stirring gently as you add them to the boiling water. It is important that the water return to a boil as soon as possible; cover the pots if necessary. Drain the gnocchi as described above and sauce and serve according to the specific recipe.
                                                         Gnocchi Bake with red onions and pancetta
adapted from here
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces Pancetta, cubed
1 red onion, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 cup chopped tomato (I used one cup of canned diced tomato)
3 tablespoons sun dried tomato paste (sadly, this is unheard of in my area so I used regular tomato paste)
1 cup Mascarpone cheese
1 pound fresh gnocchi
8-10 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
2 cups grated mozarella cheese (which I thought was way overkill so I used maybe 3/4 cup
1/3 cup white breadcrumbs (again, I thought this was a bit much so just used a couple tablespoons)

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, for 1 minute.
Add the red onion and garlic and cook, stirring, for a further 5 minutes, or until the pancetta is cooked and the onion softened.
Stir in the chopped tomatoes, sun-dried tomato paste, and mascarpone cheese. Simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the gnocchi for 1-2 minutes, until they rise to the surface. Do not overcook.
Drain the gnocchi thoroughly and place in a large ovenproof dish (My 9-inch square pyrex worked perfectly).
Add the chopped basil to the pancetta sauce mixture and stir. Pour the sauce over the gnocchi and toss gently to coat it.
Combine the grated cheese with the breadcrumbs and scatter over the gnocchi.
Cook in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until golden and bubbling.

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