I was inspired to revisit gnocchi after a great and energetic Italian couple from Naples stayed in my apartment for two weeks this summer. All I seemed to see them cook was pasta and gnocchi, and the dishes were simple, but amazing. This was simple cooking Italian style, not American. All of the ingredients they used were fresh and delicious, fresh mozzarella, lots of garlic, pine nuts, pesto. Of course, they paired most things with really good Italian espresso, which thanks to them I am now hooked on and drink every morning.
I had made a grape tomato reduction sauce when making a simple baked caprese pasta dish, and I decided to try it paired with some gnocchi some non-descript week night for dinner. I added some basil from the basil plant, threw in some bacon for fun, and there it was. A rich, creamy, smokey, and slightly sweet gnocchi dish that I have made about 5 times since that first night. This is one of my new favorite indulgent dinners because it is so simple and easy to make, yet so delicious. It freezes very well in my experience, and when I’m feeling like treating myself for dinner I have something on hand without having to go out.
Potato Gnocchi with Bacon and Grape Tomato Reduction
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- 16 oz fresh grape tomatoes
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped basil
- 8 oz good bacon
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup (optional)
- 16 oz fresh potato gnocchi
- Begin by putting the bacon, still in its package, in the freezer for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, the bacon will be hardened enough to chop easily. Do this by taking all of the bacon out of the package in one piece, and chopping with a chef's knife down its width in about 3/4 inch sections. Unstacking as you go, place the individual bacon pieces together, in multiple layers, in a pan on medium heat. Cook the bacon, stirring to mix, for approximately 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and cooked through. At this stage, I like to add a little maple syrup to my bacon. It adds a bit of sweetness and complexity in the final dish which I love, but its a completely optional addition.
- While the bacon is cooking, start the grape tomato reduction sauce. Place all the grape tomatoes in a large pan with sloping sides. Heat in olive oil over medium high heat, tossing to coat with olive oil, and season liberally with salt. Toss often to prevent burning, and turn the heat to medium after about 5 minutes. The grape tomatoes will begin to blister and burst, and a good amount of liquid will form in the bottom of the pan. Once all of the grape tomatoes are soft, after about 10 minutes, burst the remaining tomatoes carefully with a wooden spoon. Now, you can add the heavy cream and the tomato paste, stirring well to incorporate. At this stage, you can easily adjust the cream or tomato paste if you like your sauce more creamy, or more tomatoey.
- Drain the bacon to remove a good amount of the grease, and add to the sauce, stirring to incorporate. Add the chopped basil.
- In a medium large pot, place the gnocchi into boiling water. The great thing about cooking gnocchi is that it tells you when it's done cooking- once the gnocchis rise to the surface of the water, remove them into a colander with a slotted spoon. Once all the gnocchi is cooked, toss with some extra virgin olive oil in the colander to prevent them for sticking to each other. Add the gnocchi to the sauce, and enjoy.
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