Friday, September 23, 2011

The Making of Gnocchi con Duck Guazzetto - Part II: Marinara


The second step in making the most amazing duck gnocchi is another fundamental building block in Italian cooking.  If chicken stock is the foundation of this dish, as it is much of the cuisine of the region, then Marinara is the cornerstone.  A lot of American’s confuse Marinara with plain old pasta sauce.  In traditional Italian cooking, Marinara is more often not used as a pasta sauce, but as one of a few key ingredients in other dishes.  Whether it’s part of a braising liquid for Braciole (braised pork shoulder), a binding agent (holding the insides together in stuffed cabbage rolls), or as a secondary ingredient in the ultimate sauce that makes up the delicious duck gnocchi, Marinara is kind of a utility player in this type of cooking.  


To make our Marinara follow this simple and easy recipe. This recipe yields approximately 1 quart of marinara.  I typically double or triple the recipe to make more than I need and happily either give some away or find other uses for it over the course of a week or so that it remains good in the fridge.  I also have been known to vacuum seal small portions into air-tight bags and freeze it.  While it definitely loses some of it’s freshness this way, I still think it’s better than store bought marinara in a jar. 

To Make Your Marinara:


Ingredients

- 1   35 oz can San Marzano peeled Italian Plum Tomatoes (any good brand will work, I just prefer San Marzano tomatoes)
-1/3 cup  Extra Virgin Olive Oil
-8  Whole Garlic Cloves peeled and lightly crushed
-1 tsp  crushed red pepper flakes
-10  fresh basil leaves torn into small pieces
-Salt to Taste

Preparation

Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid.  Working over a strainer, remove the seeds from the tomatoes.  Crush the tomatoes well (they should look like coarsely chopped tomatoes at this point).  You will also want to be careful when crushing the tomatoes as they like to explode a bit and send tomato particles flying everywhere.  Once all seeds are removed add the strained liquid to the crushed tomatoes and set aside.

Heat olive oil in your stock pot, add the garlic and cook until golden brown.  Immediately add the tomatoes and their liquid.  Add the crushed red pepper and salt and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is lightly reduced (about 20-25 minutes).  Remove from the heat and either use or cool immediately.  Don’t cook it too long, the sauce should still taste fresh and acidic and extended cooking will remove some of that freshness and cause your sauce to taste more like the store-bought varieties.  

Set Aside about 2-3 cups per every 4 people you’re planning to feed with your Duck Gnocchi. 

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