I would have written about this dish last night when I got home, but oh no... I had to watch Rock of Love 2 with Bret Michaels. Dude. So funny.
Ok, so part two of my dad's birthday dinner, here it is. I enjoy making homemade gnocchi and I was pretty sure my dad had never had it, so I decided to make him a main dish of Potato Gnocchi with Beef Ragu. I got this recipe from Epicurious.com. It has a rich, creamy, smoky taste and the ragu is perfect with the delicate, pillowy gnocchi. Hit it with some fresh grated Parmesan cheese and fresh ground pepper and you're all set. Keep in mind, this dish is rich and filling, so when plating it up, start with smaller portions than you'd normally serve, especially if you're planning on serving dessert that evening.
To make this comfort food, start by making the gnocchi. Boil the potatoes until tender, drain and cool. Working in batches, press warm potatoes through a ricer into a large bowl. You could mash them up by hand, too, however the ricer gives it a very fine, fluffy texture and I suggest picking one up if you want to make these every now and then. They freeze well, so I think it's worth it.
Cool the riced potatoes until lukewarm, then add the egg, cream, salt, and nutmeg and blend well. Add 1 1/2 cups flour and mix until a soft and slightly sticky dough forms, adding more flour by tablespoonfuls if too moist.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into 6 equal portions. Gently roll 1 dough portion between hands and work surface to a 3/4-inch-thick rope about 20 inches long. Cut into 3/4-inch-long pieces. They look like little pillows. You can leave them this way if you want, or you can give them the traditional gnocchi look and feel.
Roll each piece over your wooden gnocchi board, or the tines of a dinner fork work well, too. Set completed gnocchi aside so they're ready to cook when your ragu is complete.
To make the ragu, heat olive oil in a heavy large pan over medium heat. Add your onions, pancetta (or bacon like I used), prosciutto, and garlic and sauté until the mixture begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add your ground beef and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes.
Now, add 1 cup beef stock or broth, dried mushrooms, and sage. Simmer until the liquid is almost absorbed, about 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 cups of stock, 1 cup at a time, simmering until the liquid is almost absorbed before adding more. Mix in tomato paste, then the canned tomatoes with juices. Simmer until meat is very tender, stirring occasionally and thinning with about 1 cup water every 30 minutes, about 1 1/2 hours (sauce will be medium-thick consistency).
It reminded me of how you cook risotto a little bit. Cooking the ragu in this slow way really gave it a huge depth of flavor and there was an incredible smokiness to the flavor.
Now it's time to lightly boil your gnocchi. Bring a pot of water to a slow boil, then drop in the gnocchi in batches so the pot doesn't become overcrowded. Wait until all the gnocchi floats to the top of the water and about 30 seconds after that, remove the gnocchi into a bowl. Toss the cooked gnocchi immediately with butter, grated Parmesan cheese, and fresh ground pepper. Repeat until all the gnocchi is cooked and ready to serve.
To plate, ladle some ragu in the bottom of your bowl, top with a portion of the gnocchi and a bit more Parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper. Sprinkle a little more sage on top if you desire (and I did). There you have it!
This main course was proceeded by a cold romaine salad in the style of an iceberg wedge salad. I don't mind iceberg, but I thought the romaine leaves would be pretty fanned out on the plate. Whatcha think?
Tomorrow I'll share the appetizer portion of the meal with you. Stay tuned!