Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gnocchetti with Puttanesca Sauce

Along with the seafood fettuccine alfredo I made for dinner the other night, I also made this gnochetti pasta with a puttanesca sauce. Like the basic egg pasta, I was taught to make this pasta during my trip to Italy in the summer. It was actually this time last year that I first tried something similar when I made ricotta gnocchi with chives. Although I have yet to make the traditional gnocchi using a potato dough (due to the fact that I don't own a potato ricer) I think it's only a matter of time.

For this particular pasta it uses two different types of flour: regular all purpose, unbleached flour as well as durum wheat flour (also known as seminola flour). Finding the seminola flour was more challenging than I anticipated and I ended up having to go to a different grocery store than my usual Safeway because they didn't carry it. Still, I was determined to make this pasta so I made the special trip to Save-On-Foods and bought the flour, as well as some extra for the future.

I'm not going to lie and say that this pasta was easy to make. It's not that it was difficult, just time consuming. After making the dough, working with one chunk at a time, I had to roll it into thin tubes, cut it into pieces, and then roll each piece along the back of a fork (as I don't own a gnocchi board) to create the little ridges. A year ago, when I made the ricotta gnocchi, I grew frustrated with the fork rolling process and stopped after about ten pieces. However when I was in Italy I learned the importance of the little ridges and why, even though time consuming, it is a step that should not be skipped. What I thought was originally aesthetic turned out to have a purpose: the ridges expand when the pasta is cooked and the resultant grooves create space to hold sauce, making each bite of pasta filled with flavor. My fork rolling efforts were rewarded when I saw how well the pasta clung to the puttanesca sauce.

Between the two pastas, my family enjoyed this one more because of the sauce. Like me, most of my family members are more tomato sauce lovers rather than cream sauce. I think the little shapes also appealed to them since the pasta looked cute and fun to eat. Now that I have made these two pastas I really want to try making ravioli, but for that I think I will need a little time and also the right equipment. Until then, I will stick to making pre-made pasta, though definitely with my own sauces.

Gnocchetti with Puttanesca Sauce

For the Gnocchetti:
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 cups durum wheat flour (seminola flour)
  • 1½ tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Combine the two flours and salt in a large bowl. Add the oil and stir through with a fork.
  2. Form a well in the middle and add the hot water. 
  3. Add the baking powder to the well of water and let it foam. Using the fork, start to mix the water in with the flour, adding more if necessary to moisten the dough.
  4. Once the dough starts to come together use your hands to create a ball of dough. It should be quite soft and somewhat spongy. Add more hot water if it feels too stiff.
  5. Remove the ball of dough from the bowl and knead it for 4-5 minutes until it is soft and uniform.
  6. Working with one chunk at a time (about the size of a small plum), stretch and roll the dough to form a long, thin tube about ½" inch in diameter. Keep the rest of the dough covered with a damp cloth while you work.
  7. Cut the tube into pieces about ¾" wide. Roll each piece over the tines of a fork, applying gentle but firm pressure, to form the ridges in the pasta.
  8. Repeat the process with the remaining dough. Note: it is easier to roll the dough if it is moist, therefore if it starts to dry out don't be afraid to add a little water to it.
  9. Cook the pasta in plenty of salted boiling water. The pasta is ready once it floats up to the top, generally 4-5 minutes.
For the Puttancesca sauce:
  • 2 28 oz cans whole plum tomatoes, crushed by hand
  • 5-6 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tin (approximately 6 fillets) anchovies
  • ¼-½ tsp chili pepper flakes
  • ¼-½ cup olives, chopped
  • 2 tbsp drained capers
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional: 2-3 sprigs of basil
  1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat and melt the anchovy fillets. Mix the anchovies to help them break up into pieces.
  2. Add the garlic and saute until golden and fragrant, stirring occasionally. Add the chili pepper flakes and olives and mix thoroughly.
  3. Mix in the tomato paste and continue cooking for about a minute.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juices. Then add the basil, if using, and the capers. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Bring the sauce to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until it thickens and reduces. It can take between 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how thick you want it. Taste again for seasoning and adjust the salt and pepper if necessary.

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