Potato Gnocchi with Ragu d’Agnello

Styling: Anita Parise & Renee Lenzarini
Blog: Renee Lenzarini
Photography: Anita Parise with Renee Lenzarini
Recipe & Inspiration: The most important occasion on the Catholic Calendar … Easter

“In preparation for the busiest time of the year, Anita and I recently shared with you a delightful recipe to create during the Lenten period.  Now, with Easter fast approaching, we have a most traditional Italian dish to serve after we have finished a time of fasting and penance.  Like most of the inspiration for our recipes, it derives from family and celebration.  This is our Potato Gnocchi with Ragu d’Agnello.

On Easter Sunday, all households and restaurants across Italy will have lamb on the menu!  In fact, the use of lamb to celebrate this special occasion dates all the way back to the book of Genesis.  I was lucky enough to have this recipe shared with me by my partner’s mother.  She had learnt how to prepare the sauce from her mother and her nonno before her.  I was told that her nonno was the owner of a “bottega” (a small providore and restaurant), during both world wars in Castelnuovo, Garfagnana. This is the same region where the Lenzarini family originates, deep in the lush mountains of Tuscany.  The type of cuisine from the countryside is “la cucina povera” – poor cooking – and is famous for hearty dishes made with simple ingredients.  And this recipe is no different. The lamb for the sauce would be bought and/or reared from a local farmer and the sauce prepared for the restaurant’s patrons.  This is a most versatile sauce that can also be served as a stew – “spezzatino” – or with a soft and creamy polenta.  We think that this full flavoured and velvety sauce will be the most prefect partner for our potato gnocchi and your Easter holiday menu.

To complement our potato gnocchi we requested only the best quality meat. We had one of our favourite butchers – Torre’s – select our meat for us.  Guy at Torre’s, Lake St suggested a cut of meat for this recipe that looks very similar to osso buco … and he was spot on!

Many people often ask me how long they need to cook gnocchi, so I made sure to keep an eye on the time.  Only 5-6 minutes were needed for the gnocchi to cook through (from frozen), once the water had been brought back to a full boil.  If you make sure that all excess flour is removed you shouldn’t go wrong.  Treat the gnocchi gently and remove them with a slotted spoon.  Also, be mindful to add the sauce immediately or a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking.

The sharp and tangy flavoured sheep’s milk cheese that was used to complete the meal was from Nick Scutti of Roberto Imports, which is also very conveniently available from our Fitzgerald St store.

The styling for this dish is relatively simple.  Again, Anita and I selected cuts from Spotlight and a rich, burgundy red cloth in particular – to represent the Passion of Jesus and the Easter period.  As black and white are also liturgical colours used to create the mood appropriate to this occasion, I fell in love with the Salt & Pepper speckled plate and just had to incorporate it into the shot.  You may also notice that whilst sprinkling a hefty amount of pecorino we might have gotten a little carried away. Once we were satisfied with the shots that were captured, we couldn’t help but devour every mouthful.  After smelling the sauce simmering away for two hours, we trust that your reaction will be just the same!

We hope that you have a safe and special Easter shared with your loved ones. Buona Pasqua a tutti!

Renee, Anita & the GR team”

Ingredients

  • 500g of lamb neck, cut into thick chops (meat on the bone is preferable for this recipe)
  • 500g of Golden Ravioli Potato Gnocchi
  • Some olive oil
  • 1 carrot, chopped finely
  • 1 celery, chopped finely
  • 1 small brown onion, chopped finely
  • 1 ramekin of rosemary
  • 1 tin of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of red wine (we used a full of berries and earthy floured Pinot Noir)
  • 1 cup of vegetable or chicken stock
  • Salt & pepper
  • Some aged Pecorino Romano formaggio (or another variety made from sheep's milk)

Method

  • Begin by heating a little olive oil in a pan (just enough to cover the base). Once the oil is of a high temperature (but not scorching), add the pieces of lamb and cook until browned.
  • Next, remove and put aside the lamb. Use a splash of water and a wooden spoon to scrape all those lovely brown bits off the bottom of the pan! They are full of flavour and make a delicious base for the ragu.
  • Now you can begin to sauté your finely chopped, dried vegetables. This is when you also add any aromatics (we have used rosemary but thyme would also work wondrously). Add them to the pan and stir frequently until they are cooked through and browned.
  • Place a medium size pot over a medium-high flame with the lamb and the vegetables. Next, add the red wine. Once the alcohol has been evaporated (you can no longer smell it), pour in the tomatoes and vegetable stock.
  • Season with salt and pepper and stir well to combine all the ingredients.
  • Simmer over a low flame and uncovered for 2 hours (adding any extra stock if necessary).
  • Before your sauce is ready to take off the heat, prepare your pot of salted, boiling water for the gnocchi.
  • Make sure that the water is at full boil and you have removed any excess flour, before you add the gnocchi. It only took us 5-6 minutes to cook the gnocchi from frozen. * Note: Be aware that the texture should be soft but slightly firm. Overcooking will lead to rock hard dumplings!
  • Using a fork, pull the meat off some of the pieces and stir through the ragu. Mix the gnocchi through the ragu and serve with the remainder of the meat and grated Pecorino Romano.
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