During these long days of sheltering at home, I find myself endlessly, and at times mindlessly, surfing the web, diving through email, floating on social media, and swimming in the sea of blogs. To maintain my sanity, I’ve made it a rule to suspend all such e-aquatic activity for the day before we sit down to our preprandial libation and eventually move on to dinner. Given the current social and political climate, our dinner hour(s) provide, more than ever, a refuge from what we’re all facing. And one of the most reliable sources of comfort at our table is pasta.
Such was the case last night, when I decided to prepare a traditional southern-Italian dish, Gnocchi alla Sorrentina, that was inspired by a recipe on the Italian blog Piatto Ranocchio. Alessia, its publisher, provides directions for making this dish from scratch, including an innovative approach to the potato gnocchi. Lacking both flour and potatoes, however, I skiped the homemade version and substituted some prepackaged potato gnocchi that I had in my fridge. In addition, I replaced the recipe’s fresh mozzarella with some store-bought that was nearing its best-used by date.
Interestingly, perhaps to compensate for the more time-consuming gnocchi making, the recipe calls for a quick tomato sauce made from jarred passata, extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh basil, all of which were fortunately on hand.
With so little effort, I was able to get this dish on the table in under an hour, maybe even under 30 minutes. Not only was it delicious, rich in tomato flavor, oozing with stringy mozzarella, and scented with fresh basil, but the pillowy gnocchi were the perfect vehicle to pull the individual components together. Each soft, luscious bite both sated our hunger and comforted our spirits.
It’s after a dish like this that truly makes me thankful for having grown up in a family that placed such importance on meal making and regarded dinner time close to sacred.