Foodie heresy

October 15, 2011

Marcella Hazen's sauce, my ricotta gnocchi

OK. I’m gonna say it. I’ve made Marcella Hazen’s tomato sauce, and while it’s certainly OK, it ain’t all that.

Yank my foodie credentials.

I’ve read, ever since I’ve perusing food magazines and blogs and other such, all about how Marcella Hazen is the doyenne of Italian cooking. I have her “My Italian Kitchen” cookbook, somewhere, though I couldn’t find it when I was about to make this sauce and so had to find it online. This sauce is supposed to be the epitome of all things Italian, the pinnacle of what a tomato’s aspirations should be.

Meh. It was OK. It would’ve been a helluva lot better with some garlic, and some salt, and some (more) basil and some oregano and some thyme. I’m just sayin’.

Marcella’s recipe is utter simplicity.

  • 1 28-oz can San Marzano or other Italian plum tomatos
  • 5 tbsp butter
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and halved

You put all that in a saucepan and simmer it for 45 minutes, breaking up the tomatos as you go. Period. The end.

Lots o'tomatos. Lots and lots and lots o'tomatos.

Now, I made a tripled batch of that, because the only freakin’ can of San Marzanos I could find was a 1-kilo can, which is about 90 ounces, which is close enough to three times 28. And because Child C and Boyfriend 1 are coming over tomorrow and she requested lasagna, so I’ll use the remaining sauce (albeit doctored up) for that.  So I put two sticks of butter (that’s 16 t bsp, if you’re counting) and three yellow onions. And I simmered. And I broke up the tomatos with a potato masher, which is my implement of choice for such things.

Now, I will confess that it was not until I got home and commenced studying this can of San Marzanos that I noticed they were in tomato puree, not just in their juice. And they were “con basilico,” which I couldn’t see was a problem, being that I love me some basil. Friends, I am here to tell you, if there was basil in there, there wasn’t much.

A "rope" of gnocchi, pre-cutting

My ricotta gnocchi, on the other hand, were a thing of beauty. Beauty, I tell you. And they, too, are simplicity in themselves, and the only pasta I make at home. Thusly:

  • 1 pound ricotta, drained in a strainer for 30 minutes to an hour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup grated parmigiano
  • about 3/4 to 1 cup all purpose flour

Beat the eggs in a decent-sized mixing bowl. Add the ricotta and the parm, and stir it all up nicely. Add a half-cup of flour, stir that in, and then add about another 1/4 cup and stir that in. It should make a very sticky dough, almost a thick batter.  Flour a cutting board pretty heavily, and put about a quarter of hte mixture out on it. Flour your hands heavily and begin to roll the dough back and forth until you have a rope a little less than an inch thick. Flour a paring knife, and cut the rope into sections about an inch long.

You can set the sections aside on a parchment-covered cookie sheet that has been lightly floured. Bring some salted water to boil in a pasta pot, and drop the gnocchi in — don’t crowd them. My 5 1/2 quart pot will take about a dozen, which is about one good serving. Boil them about three minutes, scoop them out with a slotted spoon, and let them drain in a colander. This recipe makes about enough for four, so I’m freezing half of mine.

On the cookie sheet, about to go in the freezer.

You want to serve them immediately, but you can freeze them on the cookie sheet before boiling, and boil them straight from the frozen.  Once boiled, you can even saute them briefly in browned butter with some sage and dispose of tomato style sauce altogether. They’re also really good in vodka sauce or pesto sauce.

I’m about to get in there and caramelize a crock-pot full of onions, so I’ll have them for French onion soup and other goodies later on. Then tomorrow, it’s bran muffins and then apple-cheddar-walnut foccacia (does that not sound to DIE for?). And the lasagna. And the Cards and the Brewers, after a travel day today.

Hope you and y’mama ‘n ’em are enjoying your weekend.

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