My husband and I recently had a good friend over for a casual dinner. I inquired about any special requests she might have, and she replied that maybe we should have dinner another time as she had “gone vegetarian for the week”. On the contrary I told her, it would be nice to have an excuse to make a meatless meal. My husband is a stereotypical man who thinks a meal just isn’t a meal unless there’s meat in it. Given that I am not a vegetarian I never use meat ‘substitutes’ in my cooking and only make a meatless meal if it feels complete with some other protein (cheese, beans etc). This is one of those meals; the ricotta in the gnocchi dough makes the pasta hearty and filling, and the simple marinara balances its richness well. It’s best to make the gnocchi first so that it can dry out slightly in the fridge before you cook it.
1 8 ounce container of ricotta cheese (1 liquid cup)
½ cup grated Parmesan (always use freshly grated Parmesan not the stuff that sits on the shelf in the store, it’s completely different)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 ¼ cups flour
Stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl until evenly combined. Next mix in 1 cup of the flour, adding additional flour if needed to form a soft dough. Divide the dough into 3 or 4 balls and set aside. Flour your cutting board/counter top. Roll each ball into a 1/2-inch-thick rope, keeping it as uniform as possible. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces, and place the gnocchi on a parchment lined baking sheet. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2 cans of San Marzano tomatoes (I buy mine from my mother’s friend who imports them from Italy)
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp chili flakes
Fresh basil, a torn handful
1 can of tomato paste (don’t confuse ‘paste’ with sauce, it is much thicker and comes in a very small can)
Extra virgin olive oil, for sauteing
Heavy bottomed frying pan
Heat some olive oil in your frying pan at medium heat. Add the minced garlic and chili flakes and saute them until golden. Next, add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste and one can of water (using the paste can). Break the tomatoes down with your spoon then salt generously and stir. Add the torn basil, reduce the heat to medium low and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 min until it has thickened.
Bring a pot of well salted water to a boil and slowly add the gnocchi. The gnocchi are fully cooked when they float to surface. Drain and add them to your marinara immediately to allow the pasta to soak up the sauce. Serve with grated Parmesan.