Tomato sauce is something quite sacred in my household. It is made up of simply garlic, olive oil and tomatoes, finished off with some parmesan, and I promise you it is more difficult than it sounds. My father took years to teach me, and in turn it took years for my sauce to gain his approval. Maybe he’s difficult and I’m incompetent, maybe a good tomato sauce requires a lot of finesse.
It is easy to make a decent sauce: you fry some garlic, you add tomatoes and it is edible. And essentially it is just that, but you have to fry the garlic until it is golden, too little and you don’t get that beautiful caramelized flavor, too much and it is burnt. You need good tinned tomatoes. Alternatively if you are lucky enough to get your hands on good Italian San Marzano tomatoes, or sweet cherry tomatoes, please use those (though for the former you’ll have to blanch, peel and deseed, so buy tinned). You bring it up to a boil and then you leave it to simmer for as long as an hour and at least half an hour. It should taste sweet and it should be thick and sticky at the bottom (but not burnt). If you’re eating it with pasta, you’ll have to add some of its cooking water inside and you let the pasta cook in the sauce for some time before serving. Then you finish by stirring in copious amounts of parmesan.
Then you can also make a tomato sauce with a soffritto base instead of garlic – but that’s a whole other process which I will explain another day.
It was my sister’s sister so I made her all her favorite things. These gnocchi’s were a bit of an experiment. There are many variations of gnocchis – the standard potato gnocchi, which you can replace some of the potato with sweet potato, beetroot or pumpkin. There’s the roman gnocchi made of semolina flour and no potato at all. There are the gnudi which, too, have no potato and center around ricotta, and taste like light pillows. Then there are these, flour and ricotta and eggs. They’re quite dense so make them small and serve them with a strong sauce. You can also serve them with standard potato gnocchi, but I think would be too heavy for the gnudi.
180g strong flour
3 egg yolks
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed with the palm of your hands
1 x 400f/14oz cans tinned plum tomatoes
For the sauce, add 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan together with the garlic and fry over medium heat until the garlic is golden. Then add the tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down and leave it to simmer for 30 minutes at least.
Put all the ingredients for the gnocchi in a bowl together with some salt and pepper. Knead the dough on a floured surface for 3-5 minutes, then roll the dough into a long tube and cut into dumplings about 1.5cm long.
Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the dumplings in batches for 3-4 minutes, then drain and add to the sauce. Reserve some of the cooking water.
Cook the gnocchi in the sauce with about 1/2 cup of cooking water until it becomes a nice thick and glossy sauce, then stir in lots of parmesan and finish with some torn basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.