Spicy & Creamy Vodka Sauce over Fresh Gnocchi -- shaped by my 7 year old daughter
In December of 2007, I had a wonderful sausage and gnocchi dish at a restaurant called Mezzanote. I haven't been back there since but since then I've wanted to eat that dish many times! Finally, I decided I wasn't likely to get back any time soon and decided to make something similar enough to satisfy my taste buds. It was spicy and I advise using the greater amount of red pepper if you like spicy things. If you don't you could omit the red pepper and even substitute the hot sausage with sweet sausage. Here's what I came up with:
3 lbs potatoes
2 cups of flour, plus a little more
generous pinch of salt
1. Pierce the skins of the potatoes with a fork. Bake in a 350 degree oven for approximately 1 hour or until tender. Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle but still hot.
2. Peel potatoes and discard the skins. Pass potatoes through a food mill or carefully mash them until there are no lumps. Add the pinch of salt and eggs. Stir in as much of the flour as you can.
3. Turn the mixture out onto a floured counter top and knead in the remaining flour. Add a little extra if necessary, if the dough is too sticky but be careful not to add too much!
4. Cut the dough into four sections. Take one section to work with and set aside the rest. Roll the section into a long rope about 1 inch thick. Cut the rope into one inch sections. Take each cut gnocchi and roll each one off the tines of fork onto a floured cookie sheet. Repeat until all gnocchi have gone across the tines of a fork. Repeat with remaining sections. See here for illustration.
5. Cook gnocchi in boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes. Depending on how large or small you cut the gnocchi you might need to cook them for a minute less or a minute more. I like to cook a 'trial gnocchi' to determine how long to cook the batch. Drain well and toss with sauce or butter and sage.
Creamy & Spicy Vodka Sauce
5 links of Italian Hot Sausage
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup vodka
24.5 ounces tomato sauce
1 cup heavy cream
1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes
Salt and Pepper
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan
1 recipe Fresh Gnocchi OR Fresh Pasta (or 1lb dried pasta)
additional Parmesan if desired
--This recipe makes more sauce than is needed on purpose. Place some in a bowl for those who wish extra sauce and/or refrigerate the extra for later in the week.--
1. Remove casings from sausage and cut or form the sausage into small balls. In a deep pan, cook sausage until cooked through. Lift sausage from pan and set aside to drain. Pour off any excess grease, being careful to leave any brown bits in the pan.
2. Add the butter and a splash of olive oil to the pan. Scrape up any brown bits and add the onions to the mixture. Cook over medium low heat until the onions are nearly tender. Add the garlic being careful not to burn. Cook until the onions and garlic are tender.
3. Carefully, add the vodka. Allow it to boil for a few minutes and then slowly pour in the tomato sauce and stir to combine. Put the sausage back into the pan. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn down the heat and allow it to simmer for five minutes.
4. Add the cream and red pepper. Allow the mixture to return to a gentle boil and cook for another five minutes. Generously salt and pepper the sauce to taste.
5. Turn the heat to medium. Stir it occasionally until it has reduced and thickened a little bit. This will take another 5-10 minutes and helps concentrate the flavors.
6. Remove from heat and stir in the fresh grated Parmesan Cheese. Pour over hot, fresh gnocchi or pasta. Serve with additional Parmesan Cheese.