Simple Ground Meat & Vegetable Stew with Semolina, Salted Ricotta & Parsley Gnocchi
Ok, that's or-it's Autumn! The temperatures have dropped and there's no two ways about it... It's time to start making those comfort food dishes again! Which is in itself not a bad thing...
So this evening, with a quarter pound of ground meat to be used, (mixed beef and pork), I decided to do something a tad more time consuming but a lot more satisfying than just making a big burger. I made this lovely, seasonal dish instead!
The stew itself was super simple, but combined with the equally simple and totally improvised little gnocchi on top, the combination was absolutely my idea of a great comfort food dish... So warming and satisfying, with traditional, down to earth flavors to just make you feel...mmmmh!
So, along with my couple of handfuls of ground meat, I needed just 1 carrot, 1 stalk of celery, 1 shallot, 1 handful of fresh peas, 10 cherry tomatoes, 1 cup of semolina, a little fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, some salted ricotta, salt, pepper and nutmeg to season and a little olive oil. Simple stuff, not too much, all healthy and inexpensive... Sensible food for serious good eating!
There is a lot of flavor in this dish and it is all thanks to the ingredients themselves with very little added. In fact, there is not even any fat added in the preparation of this dish than a light drizzle of olive oil that goes into the gnocchi- the ground meat has more than enough to make this whole thing taste delicious and work perfectly. Less is more! It always is!
Start off by getting the meat frying in its own fat and juices for 3-4 minutes, before adding the relatively finely diced carrot, celery and shallot, so that everything fries together nicely. Add the fennel seeds at this point too, so that as they cook, their flavor will be absorbed into the fat and that will in turn infuse into everything else... In a very good way!
Get everything nicely incorporated and keep frying for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, add about 2 1/2 times the amount of boiling water to the amount of semolina that you have, stir it together well and let it sit and "cook" and absorb and expand for a good 10 minutes.
After 5-6 minutes of the meat sizzling away, add the chopped cherry tomatoes and peas and season with salt and pepper. Stir through and let these fry together with the meat for a good 4-5 minutes too.
In the meantime, the semolina will have cooled down and is ready to be transformed into gnocchi. To do this, add about 1 tablespoon of finely chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon of grated salted ricotta, plenty of pepper and nutmeg and a tablespoon of olive oil or so.
Stir these together well until thoroughly mixed-through and of roughly the consistency of firm mashed potatoes. If your mixture is too soft, add a little semolina- if it is too firm, a little more boiling water.
And now you are ready to shape your little gnocchi, using two teaspoons to make little quenelles like this. It takes just a little practice and is much easier than you might think! Have fun and practice a little... It will all be alright!
Top up the stew with a little more water as necessary and then spoon the gnocchi on top.
Pop onto the stove top with the lid on for a further 5-6 minutes, so that the gnocchi cook in the broth and then transfer to the oven and finish off by baking under the grill for 5-6 minutes until the gnocchi become lightly golden.
See how everything has reduced down nicely and how th gnocchi have soaked up the juices from below but become crispy from above? Yes of course you can see it! And of course you love it!
Sure, this is simple stuff... But that is what I do best! You should all know that by now! And hopefully... You are going to be doing the same thing too! And enjoying every bit as much as I do! Buon Appetito!