Polenta gnocchi with a rich tomato sauce and fresh herbs

Polenta gnocchi with a rich tomato sauce and fresh herbs

By
From
Cooking from memory
Serves
8-10
Photographer
Mark Roper

Of course I am not Italian but being Argentinian is close enough. Doña Helena Tebano was the mum of my best friend, Carmencita. They used to cook gnocchi twice a week. I would hold my breath waiting for Carmencita to ask me for dinner. Doña Helena taught me her cooking secrets, but my long love affair with the gnocchi began later in life when I started making them. The Tebano family was part of my treasured life in Argentina, and is part of my life today whenever I make those golden yellow and red circles in Doña Helena’s memory.

Tomato sauce

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red onions, finely chopped
1 large red capsicum, finely chopped
3 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 x 440g cans tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

Gnocchi

Quantity Ingredient
1 litre full-cream milk
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
125g butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
250g polenta
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
knob butter
1/2 cup freshly grated mozzarella

Method

  1. In a large saucepan heat the oil on a high heat and sauté the onions until transparent. Add the capsicum and, when softened, add the paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, tomatoes and parsley. Stir until well combined. Cook on a high heat for 6–7 minutes, then on a low heat for 1 hour, uncovered, until thick and rich in colour. Set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 250°C.
  3. To make the gnocchi, pour the milk into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the salt, pepper, butter and nutmeg, and stir. Lower the heat. Sprinkle the polenta into the milk while continuously stirring. Add the parmesan and cook for 1 minute, until it thickens to a porridge-like consistency.
  4. Grease a working surface. Marble or granite is ideal, but a tray lined with baking paper is a good substitute. Spread the hot polenta with a knife or spatula to your preferred thickness of gnocchi. Allow to cool. Cut the polenta into shapes with a small biscuit cutter, about 10 cm in diameter.
  5. Spread some tomato sauce on the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Arrange the gnocchi in a pyramid configuration, topped with a small knob of butter. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 160°C. Spoon the remaining sauce over the gnocchi and top with mozzarella. Bake until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.
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