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THE AMALFI COAST

THE AMALFI COAST

by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi. Published by Hardie Grant Books, 2013.

 

So much of the travelling I do is happily confined to the kitchen: recipes and ingredients alone can transport me, without any airport angst. I don't need illustrations, but I can't say I object to beautiful pictures of the Amalfi coast, and I have spent many happy hours on my sofa drinking in the beauty of this book, and I like a volume that is as good to drink in as to cook from. The only difficulty is that I just couldn't settle on a recipe, so let my daughter decide on her favourite; thus you have the chic simplicity of the potato dumplings with tomato, mozzarella and basil below.

 

Gnocchi alla sorrentina
Potato gnocchi with tomato sauce, mozzarella & basil
 
Although this dish originates from Sorrento, its comforting combination of soft potato gnocchi, rich red tomato sauce, moon-white mozzarella and aromatic basil is now served all over the Amalfi Coast. These potato gnocchi are also delicious with ragù or clam sauce.
Potatoes that are neither too floury nor too waxy are best used to make gnocchi. Gnocchi freeze really well, uncooked. This can sometimes give a lighter result, so consider doubling the quantities and freezing half. To freeze, spread them out on a well-floured tray so that they are not touching. When frozen, shake off excess flour and transfer to freezer bags, seal and freeze. Use within three months. Cook from frozen, allowing 1–2 minutes extra cooking time.
 
Serves 6


1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) floury potatoes, such as King Edward, Maris Piper or Desirée
1 heaped teaspoon salt
generous twist of black pepper
300 g (10½ ⁄21⁄3 cups) ‘00’ flour
1 egg


To serve
Our Favourite Tomato Sauce (see below)
125 g (4 oz) ball mozzarella
fresh basil leaves
 
Boil the potatoes in their skins in plenty of salted water until tender. Although this takes about an hour the flavour is far superior than boiling chopped potatoes and they are less watery. Peel them while they are still hot: hold on a fork in one hand and peel the skin away with a sharp knife. Pass the potatoes through a passatutto (food mill) or ricer onto a wooden board. Add the seasoning and the flour, then the egg, and knead together to form a soft, pliable dough. Bring a large pan of well-salted water to the boil.
 
Lightly flour your work surface. Roll an apple-sized piece of dough into a 2 cm (¾ inch) thick length. Cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) long pieces with a cook’s knife, flicking the gnocchi to one side as you cut them. Repeat until all the dough is used. Cook the gnocchi in 2 batches. Drop them into the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. They will float to the surface when cooked. Lift them out gently, using a slotted spoon, and toss them into the tomato sauce. Serve with the mozzarella torn into pieces and the basil leaves.
 

Our Favourite Tomato Sauce
 
This is our best tomato sauce recipe ever (in 17 years of writing Italian recipes!), using a combination of preserved and fresh tomatoes. Many Italians bottle their home-grown tomatoes in summer to eat throughout the cold months. Unless, like them, you have an abundance of tomatoes and the flavour has been ripened by the sun, this is the next best thing. The richness of flavour is much enhanced by adding half the oil at the beginning and half at the end, but you can cut down on the olive oil if you are watching your waistline.
 
Serves 6–8
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 red or white onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, lightly crushed
2 x 400 g (14 oz) cans whole Italian plum tomatoes
1 large sprig of basil
1–2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 level teaspoon salt
good pinch of freshly ground black pepper
12 ripe and flavourful cherry tomatoes, diced
 
Heat half the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic slowly over a medium to low heat for 7–10 minutes, until soft. Add the canned tomatoes, then wash out the can with a few tablespoons of water and add this to the sauce. Add the basil, sugar, salt and black pepper, and continue to cook over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. Use a potato masher or fork to break up the tomatoes. Next add the cherry tomatoes. Cook the sauce for a further 15 minutes, then taste and adjust the salt and sugar if necessary. Stir in the remaining olive oil and your sauce is ready.