Sausage, Fennel, and Bell Pepper Gnocchi

Last weekend at the North Market, Jaime of Wayward Seed Farms convinced my wife to buy a small fennel bulb.

I’m NOT a fan of licorice. I’m not particularly fond of fennel seed, and the stink of a fennel bulb pretty much turns my stomach.

So, naturally, Becke came up with a recipe for me to make for dinner one night this week which used copious quantities of thinly sliced fennel bulb (the better to drown the dish in an overabundance of fennel stank, no doubt) along with a decent quantity (1 cup each) of onion and sweet red pepper.

The result? A dish that, surprisingly, tasted not at all as I’d expected. The fennel no longer tasted of anise — instead, it reminded me of nothing so much as slightly sweet cabbage. Since I’d had the presence of mind to avoid sauteing the vegetables into a sodden mess, the fennel/pepper/onion mixture was decently firm while not being crunchy. The final step of the recipe, when I melted the asiago cheese and coated the gnocchi and other ingredients with it, added a lovely glaze and salty cheesiness to the gnocchi, which had been prepared without the use of salt or oil per the recipe and were therefore quite bland.

My opinion? This one’s a keeper. The only change I’d like to make to it is to replace the Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato and Basil sausages (we doubled the sausage quantity from six to twelve ounces, BTW) to something more to my liking, like a roasted garlic sausage. That’s purely a matter of personal taste, of course.

Isn’t it lovely? It tastes as good as it looks.

Sausage Gnocchi

Gnocchi With Chicken Sausage, Bell Pepper, and Fennel
(Reprinted from RecipeZaar with several minor changes)
Recipe #299121
From Cooking Light, April 2008.
by dicentra
25 min | 10 min prep

SERVES 4

16 ounces gnocchi
2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
12 ounces fully cooked chicken sausage, sliced (Trader Joe’s Sundried Tomato & Basil works well)
1 cup thinly sliced fennel
1 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1 cup thinly sliced onion
1/2 cup freshly grated asiago cheese
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cook the gnocchi according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain the gnocchi in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/4 cup cooking liquid. Keep gnocchi warm.
Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring frequently. Remove sausage from skillet using a slotted spoon.
Heat remaining 1 teaspoon oil in pan. Add fennel, bell pepper, and onion to pan; cook 13 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally.
Add sausage, gnocchi, cheese, black pepper, and reserved cooking liquid to pan; cook 1 minute or until cheese melts, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; stir in parsley.

Published in: on August 30, 2009 at 12:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ragu Alla Bolognese

Never let it be said that I’m not a good cook — I am, I really am. I am, however, a slave to rule-following when it comes to reproducing recipes. This is both a blessing and a curse.

Where Columbus Foodie is flexible — sometimes to the point of making changes where they’re not needed, just for the sake of “creativity” — I’m the workmanlike technician, able to precisely duplicate a dish, given an accurate recipe.

This last Sunday night, I made a wonderful Ragu Alla Bolognese. I modified the original recipe somewhat to accommodate the ingredients I had available. I also doubled the recipe from the original requirements, which resulted in somewhat longer cooking times throughout. Your mileage will no doubt vary.  I served this delicious ragu over Trader Giotto’s (Trader Joe’s) imported Italian tagliatelle.  It was fantastic.

With no further ado, I present…
Ragu alla Bolognese

Ragu Alla Bolognese
Modified from the original recipe found in La Cucina Italiana, Sept/Oct 2009

1 (14-ounce) or 1/2 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, preferably San Marzano — I substituted Cento tomato puree
1-1/2 to 2-1/2 cups water
1 T tomato paste, preferably double concentrated
1 t beef base or 1 beef bouillon cube
1 celery rib roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, roughly chopped
1/2 medium carrot, roughly chopped
3 T unsalted butter
2 oz sweet italian sausage, removed from casing
2 oz pancetta or slab bacon (I used double-smoked bacon), finely chopped
3/4 pound 80/20 ground beef (I used 1-1/4 pound ground beef)
3/4 pound ground pork (I used no ground pork)
1/2 pound ground veal (I used 3/4 pound ground veal)
Fine sea salt
1 cup dry red wine
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg

Puree tomatoes and their juice in blender until smooth; set aside (if using puree, ignore this step)

In a small saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups water to a simmer; whisk in tomato paste and beef base/bouillon cube. Remove from heat; set aside.

Make a battuto (the foundation for many Italian soups, stews and sauces) by finely chopping together (by hand) celery, onion and carrot.

Heat butter over medium-low heat in a dutch oven until melted and foaming; add battuto, sausage, and pancetta or bacon. Cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, until sausage is broken into small bits, then continue cooking, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened (do not brown), about 25 minutes.

Add beef, (pork) and veal; increase heat to medium. Cook, stirring until meat is broken into small bits, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring constantly for 10 minutes more (do not brown).

Add wine; bring to a boil and cook until wine and juices in pot are mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved pureed tomato, reserved beef base mixture and bay leaf.

Cook ragu at the barest simmer, stirring occasionally (making sure to stir into edges of pot), until meat is very tender and sauce is thick (as sauce thickens, add water, bit by bit, if necessary, to keep sauce moist and just barely liquid), about 2-1/2 hours.

Add milk and continue cooking for 30 minutes more. Stir in pinch nutmeg. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Published in: on August 21, 2009 at 12:00 am  Comments (1)  
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