Gnocchi Nicoise

Let’s go back to something called “Gnocchi.” I’ve only made gnocchi once in my life – it was last year, and I decided to sort of throw my own recipe together with a cream-based sauce, ham, asparagus, and a package of gnocchi that I found at World Market. It was just ok, but nothing spectacular. Of course, as life as taught me so many times – “try, try again!” So I here I go once again, with these cute little potato dumplings.

Gnocchi is easy to find and relatively inexpensive. One pound of vacuum-sealed gnocchi runs about $3-4. This recipe – “Gnocchi Nicoise” – is actually from Food Network and is very, very good. The flavors are bold, and I think the red wine makes them even more so (something about wine, it brings out the best in everything 🙂 ) I was intrigued by this recipe due to the combination of interesting flavors, like orange peel and shallots. The one thing that should be written into this recipe is that crusty french bread on the side is a must!!! It was the only thing missing when we ate this for dinner last week. With so much wonderful sauce sitting on our plates, it was a shame that we didn’t have any good bread around to take care of it!

Gnocchi Nicoise

1 TBS olive oil
4 oz bacon (about 1/4 of a package), diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 lb ground beef
2 TBS red wine (I used Pinot Noir)
3 shallots, diced
1 C carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 TBS tomato paste
salt, pepper
15-oz can whole tomatoes
1 C chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 one-inch strips of orange peel
2/3 C nicoise olives, pitted and chopped*
1 pkg. (1 lb) vacuum-sealed gnocchi**

*As hard as I looked, I could not find nicoise olives. Online, it says that a good substitute is kalamata olives – which I had on hand anyway from making greek pasta a few weeks back.
** My personal preference would have been to double the amount of gnocchi. The potato dumplings are just so good, I wanted more! But, like I said, a good crusty french bread would have satisfied my cravings.

1. Heat oil in skillet. Add bacon; cook 2-3 minutes. Add garlic; cook 2-3 minutes. Add ground beef, and cook several more minutes, until mostly browned. Add wine, shallots, carrots, celery, and tomato paste. Cook until the vegetables soften, about 4-5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands, and add any juices from the can. Be very careful! When you crush a whole tomato, the juices go everywhere; I’ve ruined a few shirts, no joke. Stir in the broth, bay leaf, orange peel and olives. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat; cover and cook 20 minutes.

3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Add gnocchi and cook 2-3 minutes. When they start floating to the top, remove them immediately, or they will get soggy. Drain. Remove the orange peel and bay leaf from sauce, and toss the gnocchi with the sauce.

4. Serve with crusty french bread 🙂 🙂 🙂 and a glass of that same Pinot Noir!

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