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From the Italian Alps, potato gnocchi built with the jelly-roll principle.

From the Italian Alps, potato gnocchi built with the jelly-roll principle

Italy's answer to the dumpling, gnocchi takes on a new form in this spinach- and pancetta-filled roll. Instead of shaping the potato-based dough into traditional little pillows, it's rolled out flat, spread with filling, then wrapped up like a jelly roll. Slice the cooked gnocchi, and serve with a rich, meat-enhanced tomato cream sauce, slowly simmered to concentrate flavors.

Clara Freschet Agnoli of Valle di Cadore, a quaint village tucked into the Italian Alps, shared this family dish with us.

Gnocchi Roll (Rotolo di Spinaci)

1/2 ounce dried porcini or cepes mushrooms


3 pounds beef short ribs

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced or pressed

1 large onion, chopped

3/4 cup finely chopped celery

2 cups regular-strength beef broth

1 can (6 oz.) tomato paste

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dry basil leaves

4 teaspoons sugar

Salt and pepper

Gnocchi dough (recipe follows)

All-purpose flour

Spinach-pancetta filling (recipe follows)

3/4 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons butter or margarine Fresh basil sprigs

1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Soak mushrooms in 3/4 cup warm water until soft, about 20 minutes. Squeeze and rub mushrooms to release any grit. Life from water and squeeze dry; chop finely and set saide. Without disturbing sediment in bottom of the bowl, pour 1/2 cup of the water into a measuring cup; set aside. Discard remaining water.

Place short ribs in a 5- to 6-quart pan over medium-high heat; cook until well browned, 8 to 10 minutes on each side. Lift out ribs and set aside. To pan, add oil, garlic, onion, and celery. Scrape brown bits in pan free. Stir often until vegetables begin to brown, about 10 minutes.

Return short ribs to pan along with any accumulated juices. Add 1 1/2 cups water, broth, tomato paste, basil, sugar, chopped mushrooms, and reserved soaking liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer very slowly, uncovered, until meat is very tender when pierced, 3 1/2 to 4 hours; remove from heat. Lift out ribs and cool. Remove meat from bones and finely chop; discard bones, fat, and gristle. Skim fat from sauce; add meat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use; or, if made ahead, cover and chill up to 3 days.

On a floured board, roll gnocchi dough out to make a rectangle slightly larger than 15 by 17 inches. To prevent sticking, lift edges of dough often and sprinkle board with flour. Trim edges to make a rectangle exactly 15 by 17 inches.

Distribute spinach filling evenly over dough to within 3 incles of 17-inch side nearest you and within about 1 inch of other sides. Starting with the nearest side, lift the edge over the filling, and slowly roll dough to form a smooth, compact cylinder. (If dough sticks, loosen with a spatula.) Seal roll by pressing dough firmly together at ends and along seam.

Wrap gnocchi roll snughly in a 17- by 22-inch piece of cheesecloth (or, if you don't have a large enough pan for cooking whole, cut roll in half crosswise with a sharp knife and wrap each half separately). Tie ends of cloth with string to enclose roll. To hold cloth in place, also tie string securely but not tightly around roll in 2 equidistant places.

You need a 20-inch-long fish poacher to cook the roll whole or 2 pans, each at least 10 inches in diameter and 4 inches deep, to cook halves simultaneously. Place whole roll on rack of fish poacher and lower into boiling water to cover. Or set halves in large pans and cover with boiling water. Return water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until roll feels firm when pressed with back of spoon, 20 to 25 minutes.

About 5 minutes before gnocchi roll is done, stir whipping cream into meat sauce; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low and add butter, stirring constantly to incorporate. Keep hot; stir occasionally.

Drain most of the water from pan. Wearing oven mitts to protect your hands from heat, lift roll on rack from poacher. (If cooked in halves, grasp tied ends of half-rolls and remove from pan.) Let cool 5 minutes. Cut strings and remove cheese-cloth. Use; or, if made ahead, wrap in foil and chill up to 24 hours. (If chilled, let roll stand for 30 minutes at room temperature, then reheat, still wrapped in foil, in a 400| oven for 20 to 25 minutes.)

To serve, cut roll crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon 3/4 cup hot meat sauce onto each heated dinner plate; arrange 4 to 6 slices on top of sauce.

Sprinkle generously with parmesan cheese and garnish each plate with a basil sprig. (If preferred, slices can be presented on a large heated platter.) Offer remaining meat sauce and cheese to add to taste. Makes 6 to 9 servings.

Gnocchi dough. In a large bowl, combine 3 cups hot, finely mashed russet potatoes, 2 cups all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil; stir with a fork until coarse crumbs form. Add 1 large egg and stir until dough holds together. Scrape dough out onto a well-floured board and knead gently until smooth, 15 to 20 turns. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour. Use at once; dough softens rapidly if left standing.

Spinach-pancetta filling. Thaw 2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen chopped spinach. Put into a colander and, with your hands, squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach; put spinach into a bowl.

In a 10- to 12-inch frying pan over medium heat, stir 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed, and 1/3 pound sliced pancetta or bacon, finely chopped, until pancetta begins to brown. With slotted spoon, transfer meat to spinach and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use; or, if made ahead, cover and chill up to 2 days.

Photo: Carefully wrap potato-based gnocchi dough around spinach filling to form a smooth, compact roll

Photo: Lower gnocchi roll, trussed in cheesecloth and set on rack of fish poacher, into boiling water; simmer until firm

Photo: A stunning presentation: gnocchi spirals top a bed of rich tomato cream sauce
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Title Annotation:recipes
Date:Feb 1, 1988
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