6 large Idaho or russet potatoes
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon salt
Dash of freshly ground white pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups unbleached flour
Grated Parmigiano for serving
Boil the potatoes in their skins about 40 minutes, until easily pierced with a skewer. When cool enough to handle, peel and rice the potatoes, and set them aside to cool completely, spreading them loosely to expose as much surface as possible to air. (The reason for this is to allow as much evaporation of moisture as possible to avoid the need of additional flour, therefore keeping the gnocchi light).
Before proceeding further, bring 6 quarts of water and 2 tbs. of the salt to a boil. On a cool, preferably marble work surface, gather the cold riced potatoes into a mound, forming a well in the center. Stir the remaining 1 tsp. salt and the white pepper into the beaten eggs and pour the mixture into the well. Work the potatoes and eggs together with both hands, gradually adding 3 cups of the flour and scraping the dough up from the work surface with a knife as often as necessary. (Incorporation of the ingredients should take no longer than 10 minutes. The longer the dough is worked, the more flour it will require and the heavier it will become).
Dust the dough, your hands, and the work surface lightly with flour and cut the dough into six equal parts. Continue to dust dough, hands, and surface as long as the dough feel sticky. Using both hands, roll each piece of dough into a rope ½” thick, then slice the ropes at ½” intervals. Indent each dumpling with a thumb, or use the tines of a fork to produce a ribbed effect. (This facilitates adhesion of the sauce). Drop the gnocchi into boiling water a few at a time, stirring gently and continuously with a wooden spoon, and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they rise to the surface. Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer them to a warm platter, adding a little sauce of choice, and boil the remaining piece in batches until all are done. Sauce as desired, add freshly ground white pepper to taste and, if appropriate, grated cheese, and serve immediately.
Ragu alla Bolognese
2lbs ground beef
2lbs ground pork
2 cups dry red or white wine (whatever you have)
6 ounces pancetta (or regular bacon in a pinch)
5 large garlic cloves
2T. olive oil
2 medium onions, minced (food processor preferable)
2 celery stalks, minced (food processor preferable)
1 carrot, shredded or minced in food processor with celery
1/2t. salt or to taste
6T. tomato paste
2 cups of milk (heated at time of use)
1/2t. nutmeg or to taste
2 large bay leaves
2 cups of broth (beef, chicken, or veg. I prefer low sodium to control the salt) Heated.
Freshly ground pepper
Break up and mix together ground beef and pork in a large mixing bowl. Pour over wine and mix in with fingers to ensure it's evenly moistened.
Roughly cut pancetta into 1 inch slices and place in a food processor with peeled garlic. Process into a fine paste (this is called a pestata).
In a large saucepan or Dutch oven (6-quart capacity), pour olive oil and scrape in the pestata. Place over medium/high heat and break up with a spoon to render the juices.
Once the pestata is sizzling away and is very aromatic, stir in the minced onion for a few minutes until they start to sweat. Now add your minced carrots and celery, stirring until they're all wilted and golden, about 5 minutes.
Turn the heat up a bit, push the vegetables to the side and add your meat mixture to the pan, giving it a few moments to caramelize and brown on the bottom of the pan before mixing in with the vegetables. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, for ab.out 30-45 minutes, until all all of the liquid has disappeared. Begin heating up your liquids (milk, broth) for the next steps.
Once again, push aside your meat/vegetable mixture and create a hole to place the tomato paste so it can lightly toast. Cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Pour in 2 cups of hot milk and stir into the meat mixture, making sure to scrape any brown bits off the bottom of your pan.
Now grate the nutmeg into the pan.
Bring the sauce to a slow, steady simmer, consistently bubbling away on all surface area. Cover and let cook for at least 3hrs, checking and stirring about every 20 minutes. Use hot broth to maintain the sauces liquid levels throughout cooking.
To finish the sauce, uncover and allow sauce to simmer itself into a thicker, pudding-like consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste at this point, allowing at least 5 minutes of additional cook time for the spices to distribute. Fish out your bay leaves and if desired, spoon off any access fat if using right away. If storing, leave the fat on to protect the sauce, spooning it when it's cold, before use.
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