Barbara Lynch's story is compelling - rags to riches, Southie to Beacon Hill. It's like a foodie fairy tale. And let me tell you, the recipes are simply divine. For my first outing with this book, I decided to try two things I'd never done before: homemade ricotta and homemade gnocchi. In her book, Barbara tells us that the first time you have hand-made gnocchi is a transformative experience and wow. She's right. The gnocchi I made with her help was tender, yet toothsome, with a very delicate potato flavor and divine texture. The dough was very tender and a little sticky. Perhaps it needed a little more flour? But I think my restraint with the flour, while it made forming the happy little nuggets difficult, probably resulted in the staggering tenderness of the finished product.
I topped the gnocchi with some simple tomato sauce and dollops of homemade ricotta. Before I go on to the tomato sauce recipe (very simple, so if you have even the vaguest idea how to make tomato sauce, don't bother reading on), a note on making ricotta: as with hand-made gnocchi, homemade ricotta is transformative. The flavor is intense, the texture is smooth, and it cooks up beautifully. If you haven't ever tried this, DO IT. It's the easiest thing in the world and the results are stunning.
My tomato sauce doesn't really follow a recipe as such, so take the following lightly and feel free to riff as you please. Also, the recipes for gnocchi and ricotta are in StirStir: Mixing It Up in the Italian Tradition, so have a look there!
Simple Tomato Sauce
- ~2 T olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 large (15 oz?) can crushed tomatoes
- 1/4 t cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat until shimmering.
- Add garlic and cook until you can just smell it strongly, before it starts to brown.
- Immediately add crushed tomatoes and cook until creamy.
- Add cayenne, salt, and pepper to taste. Be sure you taste it before seasoning, as canned tomatoes have unpredictable saltiness.
It's also possible that I am so very happy with this recipe because we ate it on the roof! It was the first rooftop meal of the year - first of very, very many this summer.