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Ciciones - Sardinian gnocchi, with a beef sauce

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Ciciones are Sardinian gnocchi, and are served here with a beef sauce. One generally associates gnocchi with potatoes, but semolina is also an excellent base for them. These ciciones gain a pretty, brilliant yellow color from saffron. The recipe is Sardinian, and will serve 6:

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 pounds (500 g) semolina
  • A pinch of saffron, dissolved in a little warm water
  • Salt
  • 12 ounces minced pork or beef
  • Half a medium onion, minced
  • 3 ounces (80 g) ground cured lard (use prosciutto or pancetta fat if need be)
  • A pound (500 g) ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled, seeded, chopped and drained (canned will also work)
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Freshly grated pecorino sardo (use Tuscan pecorino or Parmigiano if you cannot find sardo; romano will be too sharp)

Preparation:

Begin my making the gnocchi: Combine a pinch of salt, the semolina, the saffron water, and just enough additional warm water to obtain a firm, smooth, compact dough. Roll the dough out into snakes about half the thickness of a finger and cut them into pieces about the size of a chickpea. Let them dry on a screen.

In the meantime, see to the sauce: Set a pot on the fire and heat the ground lard until the fat melts, then add the onion and cook over a gentle flame until it has turned golden and wilted. Add the meat and cook for about a half hour more, and then add the tomatoes. Check seasoning and continue simmering until the tomatoes are done and the sauce has thickened -- for at least another half hour. Check seasoning again.

Heat abundant water in another pot and salt it when it comes to a boil; add the ciciones, stir lest they stick to the bottom of the pot, and cook them until they rise up to the surface (taste one to check for doneness). Skim them off with a slotted strainer, draining them well, and put them in a serving bowl. Gently stir the sauce into them, dust them with freshly grated cheese, and serve them with more cheese for those who want it.

Yield: 6 servings ciciones with beef sauce.

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