Ciao Italia Family Classics
Mary Ann returns to her family's humble beginnings to bring us a treasure trove of more than 200 time-honored recipes.
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SERVES 10 TO 12
Saffron, once more precious than gold, was one of the most exotic spices of Renaissance Italy. It was used mainly as a coloring agent, rather than for taste, to give many dishes eye appeal. It is still expensive. Most of it now comes from Spain, but Sardinia also exports it.
What makes saffron so expensive is the fact that the stigmas of the crocus flower, from which saffron is obtained, must be extracted by hand and it takes over a hundred thousand dried stigmas to make one pound of saffron!
I use saffron sparingly in soups and some chicken and fish dishes, and to tint frosting. A traditional dish in Sardinia made with saffron is Saffron Gnocchi. My adaptation makes about 12 dozen, if you cut the pieces ½ inch in length; however, you can make them 1 inch long if you wish. Cook what you like and freeze the rest.
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron
1 cup very warm water
1 large egg
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups King Arthur™ Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
2/3 cup semolina flour
1 tablespoon plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups tomato sauce, heated
In a large bowl, dissolve the saffron in the water. Add the egg and beat well with a fork.
In a separate bowl, combine 2 1/4 cups of the all-purpose flour with the semolina and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add the flour mixture to the saffron and water, and mix with your hands until a ball of dough begins to form. Gradually add enough of the remaining flour to form a soft, but not sticky ball of dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it until smooth. Let the dough rest, covered for 10 minutes.
Knead the dough again on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Cut the dough into 6 pieces and cover. Roll 1 piece at a time into a 21- or 22-inch-long rope, 3/4 inch wide. Cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces and press each piece against the times of a fork or clean comb to create lines. Place the gnocchi on lightly floured trays or clean towels.
In a large pot, bring 7 to 8 quarts of water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the gnocchi. Cook until the gnocchi are al dente. They will bob to the top of the cooking water. Drain the gnocchi well using a handled strainer, and place in a serving dish that has been lined with a thin layer of tomato sauce. Add the gnocchi, top with additional tomato sauce, toss gently, and serve.
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