As previously mentioned, Angela and I have been in the processing of moving for the last month. In the beginning of November, we packed up (or more precisely had movers pack up) our apartment in Long Beach, CA. Two days later we flew to Washington Dulles and made our way to Alexandria, VA late at night, dropping off our cats with my parents on the way.
In the course of waiting for our household goods to arrive and looking for a new place, we were staying in a hotel. While hotels are wonderful places to stay when you’re on vacation, they’re far from ideal as a residence. I intentionally had picked a hotel that claimed it had a full kitchen. Apparently, a full kitchen means a refrigerator, dishwasher, two electric burners, awful pots, and no oven. My best laid plans of regularly cooking dinner there were quickly dashed if only because the pots (there was nothing that would qualify as a pan) were beyond awful. But we did manage to eat in part of the time. And that’s one of the major reasons for lack of posts here. There simply wasn’t anything to post about (as well as some other logistical problems; I had my camera but didn’t have the computer I need to edit photos).
But that part of our moving ordeal (and what move isn’t an ordeal?) is over. We have moved into our very own (rented) townhouse in Old Town Alexandria. We have our cats who are still terrified and huddling in the basement. We no longer have a dish washer. The kitchen is tiny but I’ve appropriated the sun room for storage and a prep area. My parents hated our old couch that they bought us a new one. We’ve spent more at Ikea that I’d like to admit and we still need to make another trip there. We have our Christmas tree up. While it may not be quite there yet, it’s slowly turning into home.
And last night, we had our first dinner guest. My cousin Alison drove down from D.C. Because she’s family, I had no issue with using her as a guinea pig for a new recipe. I had purchased some ricotta at the Alexandria Farmer’s Market that I needed to use. I originally thought of ravioli but I didn’t quite have that much time on a weekday (I’m not quite set in my work schedule yet). Instead, I decided on ricotta gnocchi. I had some time to stop at a grocery store so I decided to make the full ricotta gnocchi with the suggested sauce and all.
The ricotta gnocchi were very easy to make. Much easier than pasta or potato gnocchi. The sauce wasn’t difficult (it’s mainly chopping) but I had problems with the Italian sausage not producing enough fat so I kept having to add olive oil. There also wasn’t much liquid in my tomato sauce so I had to add water to the overall sauce so that the sauce could actually simmer. This does produce a lot of sauce relative to the amount of gnocchi. It’s almost a more Italian-American ratio than Italian but you can choose to eat as much or as little of the sauce as you choose.
If you examine the pictures, I’m pretty sure you can tell Alison’s opinion of the meal. I heartily concur. Alison was going to look for them at the store but they’re easy enough to make that I’d recommend making them yourself.
Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsiccia e Finocchi (Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel)
Adapted from Molto Italiano: 327 Simple Italian Recipes to Cook at Home
1 1/2 lbs. fresh ricotta
1 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tbsp chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 lbs. italian sausage, removed from casings and crumbled
1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 tbsp red pepper flakes
1 red onion, finely diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored, and finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib of celery, finely diced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 cups Basic Tomato Sauce
salt and pepper
- Place the ricotta in a cheese cloth lined sieve set over a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
- To make the gnocchi, place the drained ricotta in a bowl with the flour, eggs, parsley, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Stir together with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Shape the dough into 2 tbsp balls and place them on a tea-towel covered baking sheet lightly dusted with flour.
- Cook the gnocchi in salted boiling water until they all float, about 7 minutes. Place the cooked gnocchi in an ice bath and transfer them to a bowl. Toss with olive oil and refrigerate until ready to use.
- In a large skillet, cook the sausage over high heat until it is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Add olive oil if the sausage starts to stick. Transfer the sausage to a bowl.
- Add the fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, onion, fennel, carrot, celery, and garlic to the pan cook until the vegetables are softened and browned, about 10 minutes. Add olive oil if needed.
- Return the sausage to the pan and add the tomato sauce. If needed, add some water to the pan. Scrap up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes.
- In more boiling water, cook the gnocchi until they again float to the surface. Transfer the gnocchi to the sauce, toss well, and cook for 1 minute more.
- Served topped with grated Pecorino Romano.