The list of foods that we are afraid to make from scratch is long: gravy, risotto, bread, polenta, gnocchi… Something about the transformation that occurs during the cooking process intimidates us. We worry that the gravy won’t thicken, that the risotto won’t be tender, the bread will be flat, the polenta gritty, and the gnocchi will stick to the bottom of the pot in one large blob. However, if you have a good recipe from a reliable source and if you follow it to a T, you will achieve consistently positive results.

So when Glenn and I decided to make gnocchi for the first time, I consulted the usual suspects for a recipe: Mark Bittman, Joy of Cooking, and Gourmet. The proportions and technique were pretty consistent across the board, but one recipe stood out. This recipe from Gourmet recommended baking the potatoes rather than boiling them to control the moisture content. That sounded pretty logical to me and the recipe came with an instructional video, so I was sold.

Believe it or not, it was easy and fun to make the gnocchi. After baking the potatoes, it only took about 15 minutes to mix, roll, and cut the dough. I was still worried when it came time to boil the dumplings, but I didn’t let my stress interfere with my techniques and the gnocchi came out of the water tender and whole.

Glenn and I served our gnocchi in a beef ragu scented with cinnamon and coriander. It made for a great winter meal, but I can’t wait to try the gnocchi in a lighter sauce come spring.

Follow this recipe for The Best Gnocchi from Gourmet. The name says it all.

Beef Ragu Scented with Cinnamon and Coriander
Serves 4
1 14oz.-can diced tomatoes
2 oz. pancetta, chopped
½ an onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1 bay leaf
½ cinnamon stick
¼ tsp. ground corriander
¼ tsp. ground cloves
½ lb. ground beef
¼ cup red wine
1 Tb. tomato paste

Melt 2 Tbs. butter and 2 Tbs. olive oil in a large pan. Saute the pancetta until golden. Add the onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, and cloves. Saute until vegetables are tender. Add the beef and saute until just cooked. Stir in the wine and bring to a simmer. Add the tomato paste and tomatoes with juices. Simmer 1½ hours.


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