Gnocchetti Sardi with Crushed Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Pine Nuts and Ricotta Salata
Source: Fernanda Baggio, Acquerello
This recipe was demonstrated at the Foodwise Classroom on August 19, 2023.
If you are a pasta lover (and who isn’t?) … get ready to fall in love with this “little Sardinian Gnocchi.” Not only is the shape of this handmade pasta fun and unique, but it also delivers the ultimate comfort food experience. The dough, made with semola rimacinata di grano duro and water, creates a texture that is slightly chewy and dense, adding to the overall satisfaction of the dish. So, give it a try and let this warm hug from Sardinia embrace you.
Serves 4 as an entrée, 6 as an appetizer
For pasta dough:
450 grams Semola rimacinata di grano duro (This is the Italian name for semolina flour that has been ground finer than normal. Look for Caputo brand here locally.)
225 grams warm water
For the sauce:
400 grams crushed tomatoes and juice
40 grams diced shallots
15 grams Banyuls vinegar
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch chili flakes
12 leaves fresh basil, torn
40 grams pine nuts, toasted
150 grams butter, unsalted
Black pepper, finely and freshly ground, to taste
Salt to taste
50 grams extra virgin olive oil
To make the dough:
Place the semolina on a clean work surface or in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the middle. Pour the water into the well and using a fork or your hands, incorporate the flour dough has formed.
Once combined, knead the dough for about 5-6 minutes and shape it into a ball. Cover completely with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 30 minutes.
To make the pasta:
Dust a baking sheet with a layer of semolina flour and set aside. For this pasta shape we are going to use a ridged gnocchi board. If you don’t have one, you can use any other utensil with flat surface that has textures, such as a box grater or a fork.
Once the dough has rested, flatten it and cut it into 4 quarters. Immediately re-wrap the remaining 3 pieces of dough in the plastic wrap to avoid drying out.
Roll one piece of the dough into a long rope around ½ inch thick. Cut the rope into small pieces, about ½ inch wide. They should look like small gnocchi pillows.
Place one piece on a gnocchi board. Using the side of your thumb, roll the piece of dough away from you, like the letter “C”, so that it curls over on itself and becomes hollow. Place each finished piece on the sheet tray and repeat the process with the remaining dough.
To make the sauce:
Put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Next, prepare an ice water bath.
Remove the stem from the tomatoes with a paring knife and score making an “x” lightly on the bottom. Drop the tomatoes in batches, into the pot of boiling water for 20 – 30 seconds, depending on their size and ripeness. Using a skimmer, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and plunge them into the ice bath to halt the cooking process. When cooled, remove, drain and peel to remove the skin. Set aside momentarily.
Prepare shallots by peeling, dicing, and covering with Banyuls vinegar allowing them to sit and macerate for 30 minutes.
Next, using your hands, tear and crush the tomatoes into bite size pieces, squeezing the juice out over a bowl with a strainer, in order to catch all the juice and strain out the seeds. Set the solids aside in a separate bowl, keep the juice, but discard the strained out seeds. Season the tomatoes lightly with salt, black pepper and cover with Extra Virgin olive oil.
Once the tomatoes and shallots are ready, put a pot on the stove with 4 quarts of lightly salted water, to boil.
While you are waiting for the water to boil, place a little of the extra virgin olive oil from the tomatoes into a wide sauté pan. Gently warm the oil with chili flakes, slices of garlic and black pepper. Bloom these ingredients over low heat.
Next, add the macerated shallots, toasted pine nuts and tomato juice. Bring to a simmer. Add the butter and slightly emulsify. To finish, add the crushed tomatoes and torn basil. Adjust with salt and pepper.
Cook the pasta in boiling water for 3 minutes, strain and add to the sauce. Adjust the consistency of the sauce as necessary with a little bit of pasta water.
Cook the pasta in the sauce for 20-30 seconds to bring everything together. Turn into a plate and finish by grating ricotta salata over the top. Add the fresh tips of the basil. Buon apetito!
NOTE: This pasta shape is also equally delicious with a Bolognese sauce or any meat ragu. The cavity in the pasta is designed to hold any sauce very well. This pasta may be cooked right away or, for long-term storage, it may be frozen on the baking sheet until solid, about 30 minutes. Once frozen solid, you can transfer the pasta to a freezer-safe bag or container. The pasta will keep in the freezer for up to a month. When ready to use, the pasta should be cooked directly from the freezer.