Gnocchi with Arrabbiata Sauce
There are certain foods that are highly underrated. Gnocchi is one of them. For instance, everyone always talks about pasta, but hardly anyone talks about gnocchi. When you go to an Italian restaurant, you'll see 15 pasta dishes and one gnocchi dish, if you're lucky. So, why the hell is no one talking about gnocchi??
I mean, they're soft, fluffy dumplings that taste like pillows made of potatoes. How are people not going crazy for this stuff?
Now, I get why you might now want to make gnocchi from scratch. It's a time and labor-intensive process, suitable only if you have a free afternoon in the kitchen. BUT, you can buy store bought gnocchi and it's pretty damn tasty even if not as amazing as homemade gnocchi, and that is exactly what I did.
You do have to check labels, however, if you are vegan. Most of the refrigerated gnocchi you'll find at the grocery store is made with eggs. But, the boxed variety, which you'll find next to the boxed pasta, is usually vegan and made with potato and potato starch. The best store bought gnocchi I've found is from DeLallo Foods, and I also like the gnocchi from Bella Terra which you can find at Whole Foods.
The next best thing about gnocchi (the first best thing is that they are fluffy clouds of potato, see above) is that it cooks so quickly. Unlike pasta, which can take upwards of 12 minutes, most gnocchi takes only 2-4 minutes to cook. Another advantage over pasta? You don't have to constantly take a bite of the pasta to check if it's al dente. You'll know the gnocchi is done when it floats to the top of the water.
Now let's talk about this sauce. Arrabbiata is my one of my favorite pasta sauces because I love marinara sauce and I love spicy food, and well, Arrabbiata is a spicy marinara sauce. Similar to cooking gnocchi, making this sauce is super simple. The higher quality your canned tomatoes, the richer tasting the sauce will be, so go ahead and splurge for those San Marzano tomatoes. You know you want to. The reason I recommend using whole peeled tomatoes and crushing them yourself (instead of using crushed tomatoes) is that the whole tomatoes are of a higher quality (whole tomatoes vs. a mixture of diced tomatoes and tomato purée or paste).
After you let the sauce simmer and cook the gnocchi, the final step is to broil the dish in the oven for a few minutes. Broiling will make the gnocchi crispy and brown on the outside (but still pillowy on the inside) and it will melt the vegan cheese a bit. Once you take it out of the oven, you'll be treated to some serious comfort food! Make this a balanced meal by sharing it with others and serving a big green salad on the side. Or don't share it! Your choice.
Gnocchi with Arrabbiata Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1/2 cup diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes + more if you like it spicy!
1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes
1/4 cup red wine
1/2 tablespoon brown sugar (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil + extra for garnish
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
16 ounce package of gnocchi (see above for discussion of vegan gnocchi)
1/4 cup shredded vegan cheese (optional)
Heat a heavy bottom cast iron pan (or other oven-safe skillet) over medium-high heat and add 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and a pinch of sea salt and sauté until the onions begin to soften and become translucent, approximately 5 minutes.
While the onions are cooking, open the can of tomatoes and pour them into a large bowl. Crush the tomatoes with your hands and leave a few small chunks in there.
Add the minced garlic and crushed red pepper flakes to the onions and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the crushed tomatoes along with their juice to the pan, as well as the red wine, brown sugar (if using), and chopped herbs. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the sauce reduces and thicken, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, turn on your broiler. Then, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil and generously salt. Once the water is boiling, add the gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi float to the top of the boiling water. This should take 2-4 minutes.
Drain the gnocchi and then add them to the cooked Arrabbiata sauce. Top with the shredded vegan cheese and drizzle the gnocchi with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Broil the gnocchi for 3-5 minutes or until the vegan cheese begins to melts and the gnocchi starts to brown. Garnish with fresh basil.