My CSA this week contained corn, potatoes, bell peppers, green beans (green, yellow, and purple ones!), tomatoes, onions and garlic. I also had some leftover diced ham in the fridge and I was determined to make Sunday dinner using as many of these ingredients as possible.
Enter my two and a half hour cooking extravaganza.
Yes you heard me right, I spent at least two and a half hours (it may have been three and I’m not even including the 30 minutes to roast the garlic) making this meal. Although I could probably do it slightly quicker with better time management and since I actually (somewhat) know what I’m doing now.
So if you attempt this, do it on a night when you have a lot of time. This is also labor intensive, with the amount of chopping, rolling, combining, steaming and cooking. There were dirty dishes, a lot of dirty dishes. Sauce pan, steamer, dutch oven, potato ricer, various bowls and silverware, cutting board, knife and who knows what else (I’m probably forgetting something in there). Yay for my husband being on dish duty.
Be prepared. Gird yourself, because while it was a lot of effort, I finished with a sense of accomplishment and a tasty meal. I’d always wanted to make my own fresh pasta and since I love gnocchi and had potatoes to use I managed to check that off my ‘to try’ list. I’ve also never made a tomato sauce from scratch, so that also got crossed off (this is where the sense of accomplishment comes in).
I will be honest though, my sauce was really, really thick and chunky and I was hoping for more of a liquid sauce I think the chunkiness actually made it seem meaty although there’s no meat in it (although there is chicken stock but you could always sub in vegetable stock). The gnocchi used white whole wheat flour (gotta get that fiber in), and the green beans and ham was just kind of thrown in so you could definitely put whatever else you wanted in there.
If I haven’t lost you yet (you brave readers you) by my story of a time consuming dirty dish making (although super tasty) recipe, here it is; my recipe for Homemade Whole Wheat Gnocchi and Homemade Spicy Tomato Sauce.
- 1.5 lb fresh tomatoes
- ½ cup chopped onion
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 8 oz sliced baby bella mushrooms
- ¼ cup finely minced celery
- ¼ cup finely minced carrot (I actually put the carrot and celery in my mini-chop to ensure it was really fine)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 head of roasted garlic, cloves squeezed out and mashed (I had a small head of garlic)
- 8 oz tomato sauce (I used the Italian seasoned version - can add another 4 - 8 oz if you prefer more of a liquid sauce, using only 8 oz made my sauce super thick)
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 Tbsp Italian seasoning (I use Mrs. Dash Salt Free Blend)
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper (can use less or none)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 - 2 tsp garlic powder (completely optional if you think the garlic flavor is enough but I wanted more garlic flavor)
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- ¼ cup chicken stock
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream (don’t freak out healthwise – it’s 1 tablespoon divided up between four servings, and it’s not like you use heavy cream every day)
- 12 oz potato, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- ¾ cup of flour (I used half white whole wheat and half all-purpose) + more for the cutting board
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- ½ cup diced ham (or chicken, etc.)
- 5 oz 1 inch sliced green beans (or any other vegetable you’d like)
- Note: At this point I’m assuming you’ve already roasted and mashed the garlic. This step isn’t completely necessary you could just add more garlic powder or skip entirely but since I love roasted garlic I put it in there.
- Bring a pot of water to a bowl. Cut small x’s in the bottom of tomatoes. Plunge into bowling water for about 45 seconds and then immediately move into a bowl of ice water. When cool enough to handle, peel the skins (this is where the x makes it easy to grab), deseed, and roughly chop the tomatoes.
- Heat one teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat in saucepot. Saute onions, pepper, carrot, and celery for 3 to 4 minutes or until softened. Add in mushrooms and roasted garlic, and sauté for an additional 3 to 4 minutes (this would also be a good time to use a spatula to break up any really big sliced).
- Add in tomato paste, Italian seasoning, basil, oregano, smoked paprika, salt and pepper, and mix everything up really well so that all of the vegetables are coated. Saute for 1 minute.
- Dump in chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a low simmer and cook for 1 – 2 hours. (During this time period making the gnocchi would be a good idea) Right when you think it’s about done and the flavors have melded, taste and adjust seasonings. At this point stir in 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (this gives it a silky texture) and either use a stick blender in the pot to puree it a bit, or remove to a food processor. Serve over pasta.
- Steam potatoes for 12 minutes or until soft. Use a potato ricer, and rice potato into a bowl, discarding skins. Let sit for 5 – 10 minutes to cool.
- Make a well in the center of the potatoes, and pour the beaten egg into the well. Cover with ¾ cup of flour.
- Being careful not to overwork, cut it all together until combined (if the dough is still too sticky feel free to add up to ¼ cup more flour, if it’s not sticky enough add another egg yolk, not the whole egg like before).
- Flour your cutting board (you may have to re-flour as you go). Divide dough into 6 portions and roll into cigar shaped logs. Cut each log into 1 inch pieces. Now either run each gnocchi over the tines of a fork, pressing lightly as you go, or just press down lightly on each piece with the fork. (I did half of it by rolling over a fork then decided that was taking way too long and then just pressed down on the other half with the fork).
- In a pot of boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they rise to the top of the water. Wait 30 seconds – 1 minute after they start to float, then drain. Serve with sauce over top.
- Note: At this point I heated up my diced ham pieces and used the boiling pasta water to steam my green beans, but that’s completely optional - use whatever you like. I laid out the gnocchi, sprinkled with the green beans/ham mixture, then topped with sauce. To eat, we just mixed it all up together so that the sauce coated everything. Also apparently the purple ones after cooking turn green sad I was hoping they would keep their color.
Still with me? Good.
Like I said, it actually turned out really well. I was joking with my husband that I felt like we should go out to dinner, because after all the work I put in I wanted to be waited on. And that may have contributed to my lack of a post yesterday and any attempt at homework because after putting together dinner, I decided it was a better idea to lay down and watch Restaurant Impossible (love that show!)