Nathan and I like to think that we live a fairly balanced and moderate lifestyle. However, a couple months ago we began to realize that one aspect of our lives was getting out of control…we were cooking too much and never eating out. We both work full time so this translates to many evenings of getting home from work at the end of a long day and going straight into cooking and then cleaning and it all starts to feel more like a chore than a pleasure. Our lack of date nights was the result of a) always feeling like we could make whatever we ordered better at home and b) the cost of eating out in the DC area. However, we were neglecting the biggest benefit of eating out which is the whole not having to cook and clean part. So, we made a resolution for 2013 to incorporate date nights back into our lives. Side note: they are actually NOT date nights…we only refer to them as hot dates. I have no idea who started this practice but it was probably Nathan and the name has stuck.
Anyway, a few weeks ago we were on a hot date at Firefly, the restaurant where we went for our very first date. I ordered the ricotta gnocchi with oxtail ragu and my mind was completely blown. The gnocchi were much lighter than the traditional potato gnocchi and the ragu was thick and rich almost like an Italian meaty barbecue sauce? I swoon. I decided that we needed to make the dish for Rampant Cuisine ASAP. In our version we make the ragu a bit more accessible by using beef instead of oxtail and we took our gnocchi to another level by sauteing the little pillows of goodness in a hot pan with butter, lemon, garlic, and sage. While we were making our little gnocchi balls I informed Nathan that gnocchi means “little pillow” in Italian. Completely, 100% wrong. Ahem, after two years of college level Italian and roughly a year living in Italy, I’m not sure where I came up with that. The word gnocchi actually derives from the Italian word nocchio, meaning a knot in wood, or from nocca (meaning knuckle). Just for the record, I like my translation better.
I am on a role with the bargain wine pairings! This bottle was $6.99 and it was perfect with the meal and tasted like I had spent a lot more. I have to say that the label and the description totally got me on this one. It said that this wine is “crammed with abundant blackcurrant aromas”, is “a mouthful of plum flavors” AND “makes a delicious partner to rich pasta dishes.” Check, check, and check. It really did live up to it’s description and, even though it is a South African wine, was a wonderful pairing with our Italian dinner.
Nathan’s Beer Pairing: Rampant Imperial India Pale Ale, New Belgium Brewing Company
Rating: 8.0 out of 10.0
I’ve been eyeing this beer at the store for a while and waiting for an excuse to buy it. How could I not!? They used our name on the bottle! I like to think that someone at New Belgium reads our little food blog and as an ode to our wonderful site wanted to make us a beer… Delusions of grandeur you say? Maybe, but whatever.
I’m no connoisseur of Imperial IPAs but I was a fan of this one. You get hit full force with the aroma and taste of hops like any respectable IPA but then imperial side kicks in with some malt flavors to mellow things out a little bit. Rampant finishes crisp and clean without too much bitterness as if the malt and hops have balanced each other out and left you ready for your next sip. This light finish hides the fact that the beer is a respectable 8.5% ABV and will leave you feeling nice and toasty. Paired with our gnocchi and ragu, this imperial IPA’s hops cut through the rich and thick flavors of the dish and cleansing the palate between bites to get you ready for your next delicious mouthful.
Beef and Sausage Ragu:
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled, finely chopped
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 ounces sweet Italian sausages, casings removed (about 2 sausages)
12 ounces beef stew meat, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, 1/4 cup parsley and garlic. Sauté until vegetables are tender but not brown, about 5 minutes.
2. Push vegetables to side of skillet. Add sausage and cook until brown, breaking up with back of fork, about 4 minutes.
3. Add beef and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add wine. Increase heat to high and boil until wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.
4. Add 1 cup chicken broth; boil 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Simmer until liquid is almost absorbed, about 5 minutes.
5. Transfer mixture to processor. Using about 4 on/off turns, process just until coarsely chopped.
6. Return mixture to skillet. Mix in tomatoes with juices, bay leaves and sage. Reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork and stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Season with salt and pepper. (Ragù can be made 2 days ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.)
Ricotta Gnocchi with Sage, Lemon and Garlic:
2 cups whole-milk ricotta (1 pound)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (3 ounces), divided
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tsp. lemon juice
1. Stir together ricotta, eggs, 1 cup cheese, nutmeg, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Add flour, stirring to form a soft, wet dough.
2. Shape dough on a well-floured surface with lightly floured hands into 2 (1-inch-thick) ropes. Cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces with a lightly floured knife. Put in 1 layer on a lightly floured parchment-lined baking sheet.
3. Cook gnocchi in 2 batches in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water), adding a few at a time to pot and stirring occasionally, until cooked through (cut one in half to check), 3 to 4 minutes per batch. Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in colander.
4. Meanwhile, heat butter with sage, garlic and lemon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until butter is hot. Toss gnocchi in the skillet for about two minutes or until golden brown. Serve gnocchi with a dollop og ragu on top and sprinkle witih parmesan and fresh parsley.