Pillowy potato gnocchi are the perfect canvas for a tomato sauce with a hit of peperoncino.
A typical Venetian dish, gnocchi are among the easier fresh pasta to make — and promise to impress your dining companions.
- 4 russet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
- 2 cups coarse sea salt, plus more for salting the pasta cooking water
- 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt, plus more for seasoning the sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for finishing
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 (16-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of the coarse salt in the bottom of a baking dish just large enough to hold the potatoes. Place the potatoes on the salt, then cover them with the remaining coarse salt. Bake in the preheated oven until easily pierced with a paring knife, about 40 minutes. Set aside to cool. (Discard the salt.)
Once the potatoes are coole nough to handle, peel them and mash them with a potato ricer. (You can use a fork; just be sure to crush them fairly thoroughly and not leave any large chunks.) On a work surface, spread the potatoes into a square about 10 by 10 inches.
In a bowl, combine 2 cups flour and the 1 tablespoon fine sea salt. Sprinkle the flour mixture evenly over the potatoes.
Knead the potato mixture (use a bench scraper to help you get started, if necessary), until the mixture is uniform and forms a soft, still slightly sticky dough. If the dough is too sticky, add the remaining 1 cup flour in small amounts, but the less flour you manage to add, the lighter your gnocchi will be.
With a knife, cut the dough into equal-size pieces roughly the size of an egg. Working one at a time, roll the pieces into ropes about 3/4 inch wide. Cut the ropes into 1-inch pieces.
Pick up one piece of the dough, roll it over the back of a fork, and let it drop onto the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough. The resulting gnocchi should be slightly curved with grooves that will capture the sauce. Dust the gnocchi lightly with flour, and set aside.
Place the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a saucepan, and cook over medium heat until the garlic is fragrant and just light brown. Add the tomato juices and the tomatoes to the pan, crushing them by hand. Season to taste with salt. Simmer the sauce until slightly thickened, about 20 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the gnocchi. When the water is boiling, salt it, then add the gnocchi. Cook the gnocchi until they rise to the top of the water, about 1 minute. As they are finished cooking, remove them to a colander with a slotted spoon.
Spread a small amount of the tomato sauce on the bottom of a serving dish. Add the drained gnocchi, then spoon the remaining sauce on top. Toss to combine. Drizzle with a little olive oil, and serve immediately.