I know. I have a confession to make. It’s been over a month since my last post. Not intentionally by any means, more of an unplanned sabbatical. Sometimes everyday life just takes over and before you know it time runs away. Each day slips into the next, a week passes and then another.
Granted life has been busy chez nous, so it’s hardly surprising starved of attention my once faithful muse abandoned me. Literally and figuratively. So much so I’ve merely been going through the motions in the kitchen. On rotation and uninspired; nothing new to write about there.
In the past month I also managed to miss my blog’s three year anniversary. Has it really been that long? Perhaps I simply ran out of puff. It’s often said it takes just a month to break or establish a habit, and I’m inclined to believe that statement might just be true.
In an attempt to reignite my mojo I’m easing myself back into blogging with a taster of the fool proof kitchen shortcuts that have been the mainstay of my family’s dinner table over the last few weeks. A perennial favourite in our house? Anything pasta and meatballs.
When time is scarce, I squeeze my “meatballs” out of the casings of good quality Italian pork and fennel sausages into a simmering saucepan of tomato sugo (simply prepared using tinned tomatoes). Throw in a promise of “gnocchi” , and I can always be guaranteed to co-opt a willing helper or two to come on board and help out.
In our house a quick fix version of gnocchi means substituting ricotta cheese for the more time consuming preparation of potato. Light, fluffy and delicious they can be prepared and cooked in no time at all. Our record? Around 20 minutes. Simply set a large pot of water on the stove to boil, as you bring together a soft dough of ricotta, eggs and flour. Once rolled and cut, the gnocchi only need to be dropped into the simmering water until they float to the top. Mixed with the meatballs and sugo, they really do make a delightful kitchen shortcut.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Little Italian Sausage Meatballs in Tomato Sugo
ricotta gnocchi (recipe follows)
500 grams good quality Italian pork and fennel sausages
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2-3 teaspoons crushed chilli flakes
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons finely chopped herbs, I like to use a combination of parsley, oregano and basil
a good pinch of sugar
a dash of balsamic vinegar
sea salt flakes and freshly ground pepper to season
1/4 cup grated Parmesan to serve
PREPARE the ricotta gnocchi according to the recipe below.
IN A large shallow frying pan over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil with a pinch of salt until translucent. About 5 minutes
ADD garlic and crushed chilli flakes. Sauté until fragrant.
STIR in the canned tomatoes and cook until the sauce begins to thicken a little. Break down the tomatoes with the back of your wooden spoon as you stir.
ADD herbs,balsamic vinegar and sugar. Stir well to combine. Turn the heat down to low and simmer until the sauce is rich and thick. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
SQUEEZE walnut sized balls of sausage meat out of their casings directly into the pan of simmering sauce. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.
TOSS cooked gnocchi through the meatballs and sauce. Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese to serve.
500g fresh ricotta
2 generous handfuls (about 2/3 cup) grated parmesan cheese, plus a little extra to serve
2 large eggs, beaten
a good grating of fresh nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain flour, plus extra for dusting and rolling as required
PLACE ricotta in a bowl with grated cheese, eggs, nutmeg, white pepper and salt. Add flour and mix to form a dough.
KNEAD lightly, adding a little more flour as necessary until the dough is manageable and not too sticky and wet. Be careful not to overwork.
BREAK off quarter portions of the dough and roll into 2 cm diameter logs on a floured board. Cut into 3 cm lengths. Optional: If you have time indent each piece by rolling over the back of a fork.
PLACE on a floured tray until ready to use.
MEANWHILE bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to the boil on high heat,
COOK gnocchi in two separate batches in the pan of simmering water. Remove with a slotted spoon one or two minutes after they float to the top.
DRAIN quickly on paper towels and transfer to a serving bowl ready to be tossed through with sauce.