Friday, September 10, 2010

Gnocchi alla Greca, Greek-style with Feta Cheese and Tomatoes...mmmm!

A scanned red tomato, along with leaves and fl...Image via Wikipedia
Yesterday for dinner, it was too late to buy anything and I was stuck with potato gnocchi, a big slice of Feta cheese and a bunch of garden tomatoes ripe and red, the best variety, the one that comes straight from one's own garden...

Perhaps "stuck" is not the right word, because putting these ingredients together I stumbled on a marvellous way of accomodating gnocchi! Really, a super simple recipe that is guaranteed to surprise your friends! Ok, in this case I'll admit I'm not modest and I'm quite pleased with the result. Believe me, you should try it too: the tart taste of the feta cheese is nicely smoothed out by the fresh tomatoes and herbs and they both do wonders for the gnocchi that are, after all, a rather bland, non-descript affair...

Ingredients for 4 persons

750 g  (close to 2 pounds) potato gnocchi (if you want to make them yourself, I've attached below a useful recipe but I confess that I simply buy them at the supermarket)
750 g tomatoes, very red, peeled
300 g of Feta cheese or more if you so desire: use it grated very roughly or crumbled
Herbs to taste: oregano (a tablespoon), sage, marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste


Note there's no olive oil, indeed no fat at all in the ingredients. You get all the fat you need from the cheese. Of course, if you insist, you can add a little oil at the moment of mixing the gnochi in the tomato sauce but I don't do it because I feel it detracts from the fresh taste of the tomatoes: after all, oil puts a film between your taste buds and the tomatoes!

Note there's no onion or garlic either. Of course you can put them in (finely chopped) but I don't because, in my opinion, they detract from the tomato taste and are wholly unnecessary. Gnocchi are a delicate food and don't go well with an overwhelming sauce.

Start with a large pot of boiling water in which to drop the tomatoes, fish them out with a spoon and peel them. Don't throw the water away: you can use it to boil the gnocchi (once you've added the necessary salt). Mash the tomatoes up and put in a teflon-lined pot (I use earthenware but then I live in Umbria and such pots are traditional here). Place on a medium flame and reduce the tomatoes, mashing them occasionally with a wooden fork (no metal! It spoils the taste). It should take you about 10 minutes or less. In any case, don't cook your tomatoes too long (15 minutes is a maximum) or they'll become difficult to digest and loose their fresh taste. Your sauce will look lumpy and that's all right (more tasty!) but if you hate lumpiness, you can always put it through the blender (I don't).

Add herbs, salt and pepper to your tomato sauce. Taste it: it may be too acid if your tomatoes are not properly sun-ripe. In that case add a teaspoon of sugar or more, to taste.

Now boil your gnocchi and when they float up, spoon them out into your pot with the tomato sauce. Warm up the whole lot on a low flame and mix. Pour into a warm serving dish and sprinkle generously with crumbled or grated Feta cheese all over the gnochi. DON'T mix it at this point. People as they serve themselves will find the tomato sauce and gnocchi underneath the cheese and it will get naturally mixed in their plate. This is important because mixing in advance destroys the cheese's flavour. Incidentally, that is also the way Sicilians prepare their famous Pasta alla Norma: with dried salted ricotta cheese sprinkled all over the pasta and NOT inside (in spite of what some Internet chefs say).
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