Potato Gnocchi with Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

I made gnocchi with Marcella Hazan's tomato Sauce with onion and butter.

It has become habit to say in these posts what I didn't do. I didn't make gnocchi. I bought dry, packaged gnocchi from the store and boiled them. Marcella Hazan's recipe calls for either fresh tomatoes or whole canned tomatoes, cut up, in their juice. I apparently bought the wrong kind of canned tomatoes, because they didn't have juice. They had tomato puree. I do not understand why this is a product. I did not chop up the tomatoes very small (although Hazan does not specify how small they should be chopped), and I only remembered to chop them at all halfway through simmering. I sliced them with a chef knife while they were in the saucepan, holding them in place with a large fork. In any case, you can decide if that matters. It was still tomatoes simmered with butter and an onion.

It was good. Sniffing the air, my brother asked what was in it. Butter. Lots of it. Actually less than was called for: The recipe called for two cups of tomatoes, and five tablespoons of butter. I used the whole can of tomatoes, which was about three cups. I didn't have enough butter to account for this change. I only had six tablespoons.

Hazan says it's "an unsurpassed sauce for Potato Gnocchi." I was excited about this. I definitely wanted to make gnocchi with this sauce. Making gnocchi from scratch is a pain. Preserved, store-bought gnocchi has a strange after-taste. I forgot to get gnocchi or ingredients to make gnocchi when I was in the store buying ingredients for the sauce. I made the sauce anyway, planning to get gnocchi from the store later. I did, but only after I ate the sauce with Costco tri-color bow-tie pasta because I was hungry and because I did not have a car with which to go to the store to buy gnocchi. The sauce, covered in parmesan, was good. It was quite salty. Hazan suggests salting sauces beyond what tastes right on their own, because the sauce has to cover not very salty pasta (or gnocchi). This seems like good advice. What I am not convinced of is that this sauce is unsurpassed for gnocchi. Butter on gnocchi is good, and this has lots of butter. The sauce on its own is good. Was it perfect for the gnocchi? I don't know. I am used to just butter and parmesan, or just butter, or butter and cream. In fact eating these reminds me that when I was much younger my mother used to buy packaged gnocchi (the kind one refridgerates), and I loved to eat them with (salted) butter. Nothing but butter, I think.

Some other bloggers have raved about this sauce. One called it a revelation. It is good. It is elegant. It is edifying: One does not need tons of herbs, or any at all, to make good tomato sauce. One of my friends goes so far as to say herbs mess up tomato sauce, which I am hesitant to agree with. Herbs have their place. But perhaps, like Hazan says of garlic, they should be used with intention in particular circumstances, not by default.

Maybe next will be bolognese. I tried making pseudo-bolognese the other week. I used a great deal of red wine, which curdled the cream. At least I think it did. It was difficult to tell.

27 September 2011