POTATO GNOCCHI WITH A MELTING CHEESE
1/2 tablespoon coarse salt
1 russet potato (3/4 pound)
1 cup unbleached flour
1 extra-large egg
pinch of salt
3+ tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounces fontina cheese, thinly sliced
Heat 4 quarts of water in a spaghetti pot with a slotted insert and a steamer pan. Bring water to a simmer, add salt.
Peel the potato and place it in the steamer tray. Set this above the boiling water and cover the potato with a piece of aluminum foil. Place the lid on and steam the potatoes until fork-tender, about 45 minutes. Remove and let cool briefly.
Mound the flour on a 24" square work surface and make a well in the center. Put the cooled potato through a ricer held over the well. Make a well in the potatoes and break in the egg. Add the salt. Use a fork to incorporate the egg and potato then gradually bring in the flour from the sides underneath the dough. When the dough is firm, scrape the small amount of flour remaining into a sieve. Shake some flour onto the board.
Cut the dough into quarters and roll each piece into a 12" rope. Cut into 3/4" long cylinders. Cook them as pasta, in the salted boiling water for 30 seconds after they rise to the top.
Assembly and Baking:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Generously butter a baking dish. Pour the strained gnocchi into the dish. Cut the butter into small pieces and dot this over the pasta. Cover with a layer of thinly sliced cheese.
Bake the gnocchi for 5 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt. Serve directly from the oven.
Yield: 4 servings
WINTER TOMATO SAUCE
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup red onion chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced
2 cups canned tomatoes and juices
3 whole basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in an 8" skillet. Combine onions, carrots, tomato pieces, juices and basil in a mixing bowl and add it to the oil. Bring to a simmer, add salt and pepper. Cook slowly, partially covered for 30 minutes.
Pass the cooked sauce through a food mill with the smallest strainer in place. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if necessary.
Prepare pasta or gnocchi as desired, bathe with the hot tomato sauce, sprinkle on cheese, and serve. Pass more cheese at the table.
Yield: 2 cups
Recipe for Tomato Sauce adapted from a recipe by Giuliano Bugialli, Bugialli on Pasta