Gnocchi with Vegetarian Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley, Bozeman Area Photographer
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Potato Gnocchi with Vegetarian Bolognese

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

The word “bolognese” has always bothered me. I know it will distract me the entire time I’m writing this post, but I can’t in good conscience call it anything else. Even though bolognese is, by definition, a meat sauce, this vegetarian dish is closer to a bolognese than any other sauce I can think of. It’s cooked low and slow for a very long time, and the aromas most definitely ring Italian. The mushrooms do add a sense of heartiness, or meatiness, if you will… and by the time your meal is done, if cooked long enough, the vegetables will have evolved into a sauce so thick a decadent that you won’t know you’re eating vegetables. It’s the perfect meal for a rainy day, where you can sit over your cauldron *ahem*– pot, and let time and heat work their magic while your house fills with heavenly smells.

If you can’t tell, I had a lot of fun creating and shooting this recipe. I’ve wanted to integrate more color into the blog for a long time, and I think I’m starting to find a scheme that works for me. Mostly due to sunflowers. These giant beauties were just growing wild in my back yard–how cool is that? Between them and the locally-grown, organic veggies at my city’s Co-op, I have had an overflow of vibrant inspiration. And I’m very excited to share it with you.

It feels so good to finally be a part of a community where there are opportunities to support local businesses in an ethical way, on a daily basis. While Alaska was incredible in so many ways, oftentimes, the only grocery/homegoods option was WalMart, Sam’s Club, or some other equally large corporation with underpaid employees. Not to mention the fact that the packaging from the groceries you bought there couldn’t be recycled anywhere in the entire state. Now, my “system” at home is far from closed, but Myles and I have managed to reduce our non-recycled waste from three bags a week to almost one. Eventually I would love to be able to call myself zero-waste, but I’m happy about my progress so far. If anyone would like a separate post about the steps I’ve taken to reduce waste and environmental impact, let me know! It might be a series, since it’s [I’m] a work in progress, but I think it’s information worth talking about.

Also, when you create an environment where local growers can be creative and sell products not dictated by demand of the masses, you get really amazing things like heirloom tomatoes repping the entire rainbow, and this deep purple basil. I’m in love.

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

Also, a good sign your veggies are organic and not contributing to oceanic dead zones is… bugs! I know it’s an adjustment for many people to see things crawling on their produce, but my advice is to learn to embrace it. Be one with nature. Be happy when you see that other living things have found your food to be worthy of eating. And give things a good rinse. It’ll probably align your chakras.

Now, about this recipe. Or these recipes. Most people don’t have the time or energy to make both gnocchi and the sauce in one day, but the cool thing is, you don’t have to. Gnocchi is a finicky thing, easy to make it too tough or so light it disintegrates when you cook it. So if you want a good meal and haven’t had a chance to practice your gnocchi skills, just buy some pre-made. Or a quality pasta will do just fine. The sauce is a lot harder to screw up, so don’t be scared to dive right in, novice or not. If you want to give gnocchi a shot, I highly recommend buying a potato ricer. It’s pretty much just a large garlic press that finely “mashes” your cooked potatoes without developing the starches too much. If you think you’ll ever make gnocchi more than once, the ricer is worth it.. but in a pinch, use a colander (as shown below). It’s a bit more messy and you won’t get as fine a texture with your finished product, but it works… technically.

After gently forming your gnocchi dough, you’ll need to roll it into ropes, divide into 1 inch sections, and shape. If you have a gnocchi board, then shaping is fairly easy, but there’s more than one option. You can get the classic ridges using a fork, or flatten each gnocchi slightly using your thumb, then fold it in half. Or, simply, leave them in their original shape.

When you go to cook your gnocchi, make sure your water is heated to a steady rolling boil. Adding the gnocchi all at once will cool the water significantly, but you don’t want them soaking in there any longer than necessary, so do not leave them cooking unattended. Once they have risen to the surface of the water, let them cook for 30-90 seconds, and remove them immediately if they seem to be soaking up too much water or beginning to fall apart. And then you’re on your way! Gnocchi, like any plain starchy food, can be paired with an endless amount of sauces, toppings, and dishes. Your imagination is the only limit!

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

Vegetable Bolognese from Boiled Wheat Blog by Kristen McSorley

 

Hearty Vegetarian Bolognese

3 T olive oil
1-2 onions, diced very finely (I used one very large white onion, it was about 1.5 lbs)
8 cloves of garlic, pressed
5-6 medium sized carrots, diced
5-6 celery stalks, diced
1 lb white or cremini mushrooms
1, 6 oz can of tomato paste
2 lbs ripe fresh tomatoes
2 cups white wine
1 T salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
3-4 sprigs of thyme
a few leaves of fresh basil, crushed


Bring a large, heavy-bottomed pot to medium heat and add olive oil. When the oil begins to shimmer and you can feel the radiant heat five inches from the base of the pot, add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Let sautee 10-15 minutes or until onions  caramelize and begin to smell sweet. If anything is sticking to the bottom of the pot, deglaze with a bit of the wine. Add tomato paste and stir. Roughly chop tomatoes and remove seeds (peel first if desired), add to pot with the wine and salt. Let simmer for 30 minutes or until tomatoes have lost their shape. Using a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon, pulverize tomatoes to thicken the sauce and continue to simmer. Wash the mushrooms thoroughly and dice or slice thinly, and add to the pot with all herbs. Let simmer on medium-low heat for a 2-3 hours, stirring every 20 minutes to make sure nothing is sticking to the pot. When all the vegetables have muddled into a thick, velvety sauce, adjust with salt and pepper to your taste and serve over hot pasta or gnocchi.

 

Basic Potato Gnocchi

2 lbs russet or “baking” potatoes
1 c. all purpose or OO flour
1 egg
1.5 t salt


Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add potatoes and boil until fork tender, 30-45 minutes. Remove from water and let stand until just cool enough to handle, you want them as hot as you can stand, then remove the peels (they should just slide off). Press hot potatoes through a potato ricer onto a clean, dry surface. Sprinkle the flour and salt onto the mound of rice potato, and add the egg on top. Using your hands, very gently integrate the egg into the starches, as evenly as possible. Knead the mixture (adding more flour to the work surface if necessary), until you have a homogeneous dough. Once the dough is smooth, stop kneading immediately, as you do not want to overwork it. Divide the dough into four or six sections and roll them into ropes about 3/4 inch thick. Divide the ropes into 1 inch sections, and shape as desired. Bring a large pot of water to a steady rolling boil and add about a 1/4 of the gnocchi. I recommend cooking in small batches as to not lower the water temperature too much when you add them.  If you don’t want to cook them all, now is the time to freeze the raw extra gnocchi on a cookie sheet, untouching. Boil the gnocchi until they rise to the surface of the water and allow them to cook for another 90 seconds before removing with a slotted spoon. Repeat with the rest of the shaped gnocchi as desired. Serve hot!

One Comment

  • Alyssa Lowe

    Love how natural this post is!!!
    Pretty and fancy. Maybe, someday, I will make this 😉
    Love it! Or maybe, you make I eat 🙂

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