Stuffed Gnocchi (Cheese Stuffed Pasta with Romesco Sauce Recipe

Stuffed Gnocchi (Cheese Stuffed Pasta with Romesco Sauce Recipe Recipe

I recently had stuffed gnocchi at a restaurant and have been itching to recreate the dish at home, with my own little twists of course. I decided to stuff my homemade gnocchi with pieces of Nabulsi cheese, which is Persian black sesame cheese. I chose this particular cheese because I like the way it melts when it is cooked. It's not as messy as mozzarella, but it does become soft and a bit stringy. I paired the cheese-stuffed pasta with homemade romesco sauce, which contains pine nuts, almond butter, olive oil, bread, a head of roasted garlic, sherry vinegar and roasted red bell pepper. The bright, red color pops against the gnocchi. And since the sauce pairs so well with seafood, I served fried fish on the side.

Lya, Lulu and I had so much fun filming the "how to make gnocchi" video a few weeks ago, and this dish brought back the memories. My little munchkin was sad that she didn't get to help roll and form the gnocchi last time, so I made sure that she got her chance today. She enjoyed it so much, mostly because she nominated herself to be the official taster. Making gnocchi is very interactive, and I’ve found it’s a great way to get kids cooking. It doesn’t hurt that it tastes great too!

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1 (14-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes, drained and diced
½ cup whole almonds
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly dry-toasted
1 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup stale white bread (I used a baguette), diced
1 head roasted garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce, to taste
½ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon fennel seeds
¼ teaspoon red chili flakes
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon honey (optional)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
1 bowl of homemade gnocchi dough (click on the link for the recipe)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 (20-ounce) package Nabulsi cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons coarse grain mustard
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped


Directions

For the spices:

Dry-toast the fennel seeds and cumin seeds. Place them in a spice grinder with the smoked paprika and chili flakes until it becomes a fine powder. Set the seasoning mix aside.

Making almond butter:

Place the almonds in a saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil for about 3 minutes. Drain and remove the skin. Coarsely chop them.

Grind the blanched almonds in a food processor or in a blender until it turns into a coarse almond butter. Add the pine nuts and pulse one more time. I use the VitaMix Dry Blade Container. The result should be pasty.

How to make Romesco sauce:

In a bowl, squeeze out the softened garlic cloves from the roasted garlic.

Dice the bread into about 1- ½" cubes. Put the diced bread into a food processor and pulse several times; it's okay if there are remaining chunks of bread. The moisture from the tomatoes will soften the bread. Add the tomatoes, spice mix, honey (if used), sherry vinegar, roasted garlic, nut butter, Tabasco sauce, red bell pepper and water for a smoother flow. Thicken the sauce with 1/3 cup olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.


Forming the gnocchi:

Cut the Nabulsi cheese into matchstick pieces. Gather 80 small pieces.

Sprinkle your work space with a little flour.

Create 4 (1-¼" diameter) 16-inch logs. Using a paring knife, cut the logs into 1-¼" pieces.

Flatten each piece, creating an oval shape. Place a piece of cheese and roll the dough on itself to wrap the cheese.


Boiling the gnocchi:

Bring about 3 quarts of water to boil. Add the gnocchi, bring back to a boil, then immediately lower the heat to a gentle boil. That way the pasta is cooked all the way through evenly. Cook the pasta for about 3-4 minutes total until the gnocchi float to the surface. Salt the water half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the gnocchi and it will be fluffy and more tender) and keep gently stirring every now and then so the gnocchi doesn't stick to the bottom.

When the pasta is cooked, reserve about 1/3 cup of pasta water and drain the gnocchi (do NOT rinse). Let stand in a colander.


Assembly time:

In a large NON-STICK sauté pan, heat the rest of the olive oil. Add the garlic cloves and cook until they're slightly golden. Add the gnocchi pasta. Toss the gnocchi by moving the pan in circular motion (the pan should be lifted in a low angle to facilitate the movement). Season with coarse-grained mustard, salt and pepper. If the pasta starts sticking to the bottom, add the reserved pasta water. Add parsley.

Pour the romesco sauce onto to a large serving platter. Top with the cheese stuffed gnocchi. Garnish with more parsley.

Bon appétit!


Tips

Count about 10 gnocchi per person.

Tomatoes are not in season yet, so I used canned tomatoes because they are picked at the peak of ripeness, which guarantees a sweet sauce.

Making roasted garlic is fairly easy. Once the head of garlic is roasted, squeeze out the softened garlic cloves. If you use a terra cotta roaster for the garlic, it's preferable to add 2-3 tablespoons of water at the bottom of the roaster before covering it, for easy clean-up. Don't worry, the flavor will remain intact.

Terra Cotta Garlic Roaster
Picture

You can find Nalbulsi cheese in Indian/Pakistani markets. It's quite similar to feta cheese but much milder and sweeter. I buy Karoun brand Nabulsi cheese.

For another design, check out my very first cooking demo:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=burYvcPW5RY&feature=player_embedded

 

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on May 30, 2010.


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