"Aglione" means "big garlic" in Italian, which refers to the fact that you leave the garlic cloves whole in this recipe, for a mild, delicious garlic flavor. I learned the recipe for this sauce on our honeymoon in Sienna, and it has become a favorite in our family ever since. The cherry tomatoes make it so creamy! Don't be intimidated by the gnocchi. It's the easiest fresh pasta to make, and my kids love helping!
For the gnocchi
5-6 medium yukon gold potatoes, quartered (peeling optional)
3/4 cup all purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
For the sauce
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (or quartered for jumbo cherries, in thirds for grape)
2-10 cloves of garlic, peeled but not crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
red chili flakes to taste
salt to taste
parmesan and basil for serving
1. Place the potatoes in a steamer basket over a little water and steam until they are fork tender (I use one of those cheap metal ones you can find at any kitchen store that expand to fit most pots).
2. While the potatoes are steaming, make your sauce. Start by heating the olive oil, garlic cloves, and chili flakes in a very large skillet. Be careful not to burn the garlic--as soon as it has color, move on to step three.
3. Add the tomatoes, and watch out, because it will splatter! Salt to taste and smash the tomatoes down a bit with the back of a wooden spoon to facilitate break down.
4. Cover the skillet and allow to simmer until the tomatoes start to break down, forming a creamy sauce with little skins in it for texture. If it seems to watery, remove the lid and allow it to cook down a bit more. When it's creamy enough to coat the back of a spoon, it's done. You can turn off the heat and leave it while you focus on the gnocchi.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
6. When the potatoes are fork tender, remove them from the heat. While the potatoes are still hot, run them through a ricer or food mill and into a large mixing bowl. The ricer will remove any peels, saving you a step in prep.
7. Add the flour on top of the potatoes. Using the flour as an insulator to prevent the hot potatoes from instantly scrambling the egg, slowly pour in the egg.
8. Stir vigorously with a fork to combine the ingredients. Then knead with your hands (careful--it's hot!) until all the ingredients come together.
9. Chop off a small chunk of the dough and roll it out like a snake, until you have a thick rope. Then chop the rope with a sharp knife or metal pastry scraper into roughly 1/2 inch bits:
10. Place one piece in the palm of your hand and gently roll the tines of a fork back and forth across it to shape the dough into the classic potato dumpling (this takes a few tries to get the hang of, but it's completely cosmetic, so no worries if some wind up smushed--they still taste good!):
11. When the water boils, cook the gnocchi in batches, 2-3 minutes until they float. That means the egg is cooked and they are ready! Scoop them out of the water with a slotted spoon and add them directly to the sauce, stirring them in occasionally to be sure they are coated. Continue this process until all of the gnocchi are cooked and in the sauce.
12. Taste for salt, top with grated parmesan and fresh basil, and enjoy!