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Gnocchi al Sugo di Pomodoro Fresco with Chef Paolo Laboa

'Practice makes perfect' with these little pillows of dough

Gnocchi is the perfect pasta starter because it requires no machine and is relatively easy to put together. It is also one of those components that people can do together! Young or old alike can practice and experiment with the dough texture, rolling out, and sauce accompaniment. Remember: practice makes perfect! And the more time and company you have at your side the better it will come out. Final note here will be on items "to taste." It is important for all home cooks to learn what this means. Don't salt your pasta; salt your water for boiling pasta. So put in enough kosher salt until the water tastes like the sea. Same may go for garlic and other items that can overpower. Use your senses and trust your palate.

Gnocchi Dough

• 300 grams "00" milled flour (note: "00" milled is a fineness of the flour. Folks can usually find "00" ground flour in most stores. Paolo always measures by grams, but the translation is approximately 2 cups. If dough is too wet, just add a little more.

• handful parmigiano-reggiano

• 1 egg

• 3 russet potatoes

One key caveat with gnocchi dough, versus pasta dough in general, is you don't want to let it sit (pasta dough benefits from the gluten binding in fridge for 30 minutes). The potato/flour combo will turn to ping-pong balls, not the pillows we all love, so boil your potatoes right before you are ready to make the dough. Put potatoes in ricer or food processor to turn into a workable consistency. The ricer helps by processing the potatoes right into your flour bowl. Add egg and handful of parmigiano and work with your hands until uniform, but sticky. For rolling out, you will want a bench scraper (very helpful in the kitchen) and your hands. Cut a segment of your dough and roll out evenly to the thickness of a cork. Create a couple rows to cut more at once if you are comfortable, but use the bench scraper to cut out those little pillows that will shortly head for the water!

All-those-tomatoes Sauce

• 5 fresh garden tomatoes (cored)

• 5 spoonfuls of extra virgin olive oil (be generous)

• small handful of basil

• 1 clove of garlic smashed with your palm

• salt to taste

Gather up all those tomatoes that your plants have blessed you with and make them into sauce! Start with a large pot, perhaps 8 -10 qt., and add your oil, garlic and basil. Over medium heat, cook until the oil is fragrant with flavor. Add your tomatoes and salt to taste and reduce to a simmer, cooking for 3-4 hours – piano, piano, piano (patiently!). An immersion blender (or normal blender if necessary) will turn the stewed mixture into that lovely sauce consistency we are aiming for.

Putting it all together...

Put an appropriate amount of the finished tomato sauce in a sauté pan (at oven-top temp–no heat). Meanwhile your water should be salted to taste and boiling. The gnocchi cook quickly and will float when ready. Use a slotted spoon to shift them to sauté pan. Add a sprinkle of parmigiano-reggiano (never enough!) and use that same spoon to toss/stir to integrate. Fresh basil will garnish. No salting needed if the sauce and boiling water were done properly. Buon appetito!

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