A few years ago, Colleen (pregnant with our son, Roman); the girls, Vivian and Marcella; and I spent Christmas on the Aeolian island of Salina, just off the coast of Sicily. One of the dishes that we were served at a local restaurant was called Rigatoni alla Fantasia. The fat, tubular pasta was dressed in an eggplant puree, peas, and smoked scamorza—a soft cheese that’s something like a cross between provolone cheese and mozzarella.
I’ve always wanted to use smoked mozzarella in a dish. I recalled the Roman habit of cooking sausage with peas and thought those ingredients would be just the right combination with smoked mozzarella. When the smoky, soft cheese melts over the gnocchi, sausage, and peas, a fantasia is realized.–Ron and Colleen Suhanosky
Gnocchi with Sausage and Smoked Mozzarella
- Food mill or potato ricer
For the gnocchi
- 3 pounds unpeeled Idaho potatoes
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 egg
For the sauce
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 2 cups peeled whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup fresh shelled or frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 pound good-quality smoked mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch (6-mm) cubes
Make the gnocchi
- Gently boil the potatoes in their jackets in a large pot of water over medium heat until a sharp knife passes easily through the thickest part. Remove the potatoes from the pot and let them cool to the touch; they shouldn't get completely cold.
- Spread the all-purpose flour on a clean, dry work surface. Place the potatoes on top and add the salt and egg. Using your hands, gather the ingredients together and gently knead the dough into a 10-by-8-inch log. Let rest for 2 minutes.
- Lightly dust another clean, dry work surface with more flour. Cut the log into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 1-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch-wide gnocchi. Store the gnocchi on a flour-covered baking sheet until ready to use. Dust with more flour.
Cook the gnocchi
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi to the water and cook until they float to the top. Cook for 1 more minute.
Make the sauce
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the sausage, and break it up with a wooden spoon. Stir the sausage and cook until the pink disappears and the meat is browned, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes, water, peas, salt, and pepper. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to the desired consistency, about 10 minutes. Evenly distribute the mozzarella over the sauce.
Assemble the dish
- When the gnocchi is cooked, use a slotted spoon to remove them from the pot and place them directly into the skillet. Carefully fold together the gnocchi and sauce with a spatula. Serve immediately on warmed plates.
Pasta SfogliaBuy On Amazon
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
We had a package of lovely local Italian sausage that was brilliant in this ragu-like sauce. We loved the piquancy of the sausage, garlic, and tomatoes, while the peas added a bright freshness. The sauce, when spooned over the gnocchi, immediately made the dish sing. It completely enlivened the gnocchi, yet didn’t overwhelm it. (I didn’t use the gnocchi recipe but rather relied on my own.)
I took the liberty of sprinkling on torn fresh basil to add the punch I felt was missing. The crowning touch was oozing, bubbly smoked mozzarella. What a great combination! Smoked cheeses are a particular weakness of mine, and in this recipe, it was tantalizingly delicious and a stroke of genius. While making it I tasted more than I usually do because I couldn’t help myself. Our Italian sausage was very flavorful, but if yours is bland you will need to adjust seasoning.
While I was intrigued by the combination of ingredients, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And what an interesting combination of flavors and textures it turned out to be.
The hint of spiciness from the sausage played off so well against the sweetness of the tomatoes and peas and the smokiness of the cheese, and it all benefitted from the contrast with the soft, pillowy gnocchi.
The gnocchi recipe is straightforward if time-consuming, but much of the time is hands-off – cooking and letting the potatoes cool – which I used to put together some cookie dough. And it makes a lot – I got 204 in total; for us, that’s about ten servings! The sauce comes together quickly; if you have the gnocchi (a stash in the freezer is key!), dinner is on the table in just about 30 minutes.
This dish was a big hit! One of the first comments from my dinner companions was that the gnocchi was so light and that it was unlike the doughy gnocchi they had eaten before, and I completely agreed. These cloud-like dumplings did not have any hint of gluten and seemed to just evaporate seconds after you put them in your mouth!
They were wonderful tossed in the delicious sauce that was gently seasoned with the Italian sausage and the bit of smokiness from the mozzarella cheese. In terms of efficiency, before you do anything else, start the potatoes first. (As I always do when I boil potatoes, I start them in cold water.) Since my potatoes were on the large side, it took 50 minutes to fully cook them, but while they were boiling, I was able to remove the casings from the sausage, slice the garlic, crush the tomatoes, and cook the sauce up to just before the mozzarella is added.
You could also boil and rice the potatoes the day before and make the gnocchi the following day. After dusting the cut gnocchi, very delicately roll the gnocchi pieces so that the cut surfaces are lightly coated with flour. I found that it helps the individual dumplings stay separated when moving around in the boiling water.