2 RUSSET POTATOES – medium size
1 ½ CUPS FLOUR
½ CUP RICOTTA – whole milk, drained
½ CUP PARMESAN CHEESE – grated
SERVES 3 – 4
PREHEAT OVEN TO 400º
With a small kitchen knife, stab the potatoes several times to allow the steam to escape while baking. Bake in pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, or until soft enough to mash. Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool to room temperature.
When cool enough to handle, scoop out the insides of the potato removing the flesh from the outer skin. Mash the potato thoroughly, preferably with a ricer, making it as lump free as possible.
Add flour, slightly beaten egg, grated cheese (I often use Romano), ricotta, and knead mixture until the dough is nice and smooth. Cover and let rest for 30 – 40 minutes.
Divide dough into several small balls, (try baseball size). On a well-floured surface, stretch and roll into a log about 1-inch thick or a bit thinner. Cut the log into 1-inch pieces and roll off on the tines of a fork (this makes a very traditional gnocchi and thought to help the sauce adhere in the little ridges). Keep lightly covered on the floured surface while preparing the sauce.
¼ CUP BUTTER – preferably salted
1 CUP PANCETTA – diced
1 SHALLOT – medium, sliced
3 GARLIC CLOVES – minced
1 TSP RED PEPPER FLAKES – or to taste
¼ CUP VODKA – or more to taste
2 Cans (28 oz) SAN MARZANO WHOLE TOMATOES
1/3 CUP CHEESE – freshly grated, your favorite, Parmesan or Romano
1/3 CUP FRESHLY CHOPPED BASIL LEAVES – or to taste
SALT AND FRESHLY GROUND BLACK PEPPER
¼ CUP HEAVY CREAM – or more as needed
Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook until lightly browned. Remove pancetta and set aside. Add shallots to the pan drippings and cook until fragrant. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for less than 1 minute, just until fragrant.
Pour vodka into the pan to deglaze the pan and use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the little bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Let liquid reduce a little and reduce heat to medium. Add the tomatoes, grated cheese, and tomato paste. Cook sauce for about 8 or 9 minutes. Remove from heat and puree using an immersion blender until as smooth as you desire. Typically, the sauce should be very smooth but my family prefers it a little lumpy, so I stop sometime before silky smooth!
Return pot to medium heat. Add ¼ cup chopped basil and pancetta. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add cream and taste for seasonings. Adjust with salt and pepper.
In the meantime, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt. Slowly and carefully add gnocchi into the water and let slow boil until they float to the top. This should take only about 5 or 6 minutes depending on the size of the gnocchi you created. Scoop out with a spider and ladle into a plate that has some of the sauce in it. When all of the gnocchi is in the bowl, add more sauce and serve.
Pass more basil and freshly grated cheese.