Right after I graduated college my friend Mia and I started a blog. We were both back home after school and both kind of at a loss for what to do with our lives and this was a good excuse for us to get together once a week and cook. It was sadly kind of short lived, the cooking actually went on for a while, but trying to not only cook once a week but also sit down and write about it together took a lot of time and lot more commitment than we could really manage. But we kept cooking, even if we stopped writing about it for our 8 devoted followers, which is really too bad because we were pretty damn entertaining. We almost never got a meal out on time, we struggled with a notoriously dangerous spice rack, had grocery shopping outings that were meant to take 30 minutes and ended up taking two hours. There was a lot of Rosé drinking, which probably didn’t help speed along the cooking process, a few minor flour explosions, and only a couple incidents where we read the recipe wrong. But the food was always good; Mia even cried once over a particularly delicious frittata, I cried too, but mostly from laughter. We had fun. It didn’t really give us any more perspective on what exactly it was we were doing with our lives but It was definitely one of the best parts about that whole year.
Mia and I don’t live in the same city anymore but when we do get together we still like to cook. So when she came to visit we cranked some TLC Pandora, opened some rosé and made one of our favorite things from the first go around: Smitten Kitchen’s Gnocchi in Tomato Broth, or as Mia likes to call it, little pillows of heaven. They didn’t make her cry, so far nothing has been able to stand up to that frittata, but they were damn good. And, as per our tradition, there were a couple grocery-shopping incidents, a minor spill and dinner was about an hour later than we planned. It was perfect.
On our original blog we also delved into wine pairings…but those were never quite so successful or really well thought out. Before we got together to cook this meal I was looking over our old stuff and our so-called wine “pairings” consisted mostly of the following. “Wine Selections: Some kind of sparkling something” Or my personal favorite “Wine: we drank too much and don’t remember” But, we are older and wiser now and for our reunion dinner we paired the gnocchi with a lovely central coast Pinot Noir. The rich cranberry and bright cherry fruit are a great match to the silky tomato broth and compliment the pillowy texture of the gnocchi itself. Also the notes of earth and the tiny hint of spice in the Pinot is mirrored in the spices and seasoning in the broth.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium stalk celery, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
- Small handful of fresh basil leaves, plus more for garnish
- 2 cups chicken stock
- 2 pounds russet potatoes
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon table salt
- 1 ¼ to 1 ½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F and bake the potatoes directly on the rack for 45 minutes to an hour. You are looking for them to be soft so a knife or fork can easily pierce through them. Then let them cool so you can handle them.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat and add the carrot, celery, and onion. Cook for about 5 minuets until the vegetables begin to soften. Add in the garlic and cook for one more minute. Then pour in the wine and use the liquid to scrape up any browned bits that have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced by about half. Then stir in the tomatoes and use a wooden spoon to mash them into smaller pieces. Add in the basil and the stock and bring the whole mixture to a simmer to allow the broth to thicken slightly, about 45 minuets. Finally, strain out the vegetables with a fine mesh strainer so you are just left with a smooth, silky broth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.
Now that the potatoes have cooled peel them with a knife or a peeler and cut into quarters. Run the potatoes through a ricer and make sure they have fully cooled before you add in the egg and the salt, mix to combine everything. Add in ½ cup of flour and mix again. Then add in another ½ cup of flour and combine. Finally add in a ¼ cup of flour and see if this has formed a dough that does not easily stick to your hands, if not add in another ¼ cup flour. The dough should be soft and it will always be a little sticky but you still need to be able to handle it with out it getting all over you. Once you have it at your desired consistency kneed the dough briefly on a counter for a minute and then divide the dough into quarters. Roll each quarter into a long rope, about ¾ inch thick and cut the rope into ¾ inch lengths.
Cook the gnocchi, a quarter batch at a time, in a pot of boiling, well-salted water. Cook the gnocchi just until they float to the surface of the pot, only about 2 minutes and then fish the gnocchi out of the water with a strainer and repeat with the rest of the dumplings.
While you are cooking the dumplings, re-heat the broth to a simmer and add in the drained gnocchi so that everything is warmed through. Serve garnished with slivers of basil and a grating of Parmesan cheese.