Valentine’s Day fell on a Sunday this year, but because Colton and I are commuting back and forth between San Antonio and Dallas to see each other until we get married in May (!!!), we celebrated a little early on Saturday evening. What better way to celebrate a romantic holiday than with homemade Italian food and a bottle of wine?
The recipe can take some time to make if you do everything in one go, but you can save time by making the gnocchi ahead of time and freezing them in one layer so they don’t stick together. Once they are frozen, dump them in a bag and keep in the freezer until you are ready to use them!
GNOCCHI WITH CHICKEN SAUSAGE, ASPARAGUS, ZUCCHINI, AND SPINACH IN VODKA CREAM SAUCE
Vodka Cream Sauce:
3-4 links fresh chicken sausage (We used chicken, feta, and spinach sausage)
|Peel the russet potatoes, quarter them, and place in a large pot covered by 2-3 inches of water. Boil and cook just until fork tender, but not falling apart. Strain the potatoes and run them through a food mill or potato ricer. Spread them out on a baking pan, sprinkle with salt, and allow to cool for about an hour.
In the meantime, place the sausage in a deep skillet that has a lid. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover the sausages halfway. Cover and boil for 25 minutes or until fully cooked, turning the sausage half way through. Remove the sausage and slice into 1/2 inch rounds. Set aside.
Once the potatoes are cool, pile them into a mound. Pour the eggs on top and sprinkle with 1 cup of flour. Incorporate everything together using your hands and gently knead until the dough is smooth. DO NOT OVER KNEAD.
Using additional flour as needed, divide the dough into four quarters and roll each piece into a long rope about 1/2 inch thick. Using a knife, cut the gnocchi into pieces 1/2″ apart. Using the tines of a fork placed on the middle of the cut end, roll each piece of gnocchi gently towards the end of the tines. This creates the indents on the top. Keep the gnocchi in a single layer not touching each other until cooking, they tend to stick together.
Lightly steam the asparagus and zucchini until fork tender, but not too soft, about 4-5 minutes. Place in a large bowl. Heat a skillet with olive oil, and sauté the spinach until just wilted. Pour the spinach into the bowl with the steamed vegetables and gently mix together. Set aside.
Put on a large pot of water to boil for the gnocchi.
In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about another minute. Add the tomato paste and stir to combine everything. This is probably the most important step to making pasta sauce. You want to cook the tomato paste until you can smell it cooking and *almost* burn it. Trust me, you will smell it. If it burns you will have to start all over, so be careful. This will take at most 3-5 minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and mix everything together, heating through. Mix in the vodka and reduce to medium heat. Let it cook for about 5-8 minutes or until the vodka has evaporated.
While the sauce is cooking, drop the gnocchi in the boiling water. They take about 10 minutes to cook, just do a taste test to be sure. 😉 Drain the gnocchi when done.
As soon as you drop the gnocchi, add the cream, red pepper flakes, dried basil, and salt to the vodka sauce. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to your liking. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.
Add the gnocchi, sausage, and vegetables to the sauce and toss to coat. Plate and top with fresh basil and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.
We paired this dish with an Italian Soave, which you can find at pretty much any store that sells wine. The acidity from the tomatoes paired nicely and brought out a sweetness in the wine that you couldn’t taste otherwise. Enjoy!