Everything, everything hinges on a good quality tomato sauce. In fact, many things in life do, don’t they? And yet it’s surprisingly hard to achieve, especially when, as in the UK, you usually only get water pretending to be a fresh tomato.
Strictly speaking then, this isn’t just a tomato sauce. You can definitely taste the pepper, especially after letting it stand for a day or so. But who cares? It works beautifully over pasta, as a base for other pizza toppings, spread over chicken breasts and baked, or, like in this recipe, poured over gnocchi and mozzarella.
It’s also perfect for freezing, which makes up for the fact that it’s a little time-consuming to make.
A last word on the pepper: I peel mine with a vegetable peeler before I start cooking it. It makes it easier to digest and it’s a lot less faff than roasting the whole thing and then getting your fingers covered in charred skin as you attempt, usually in vain, to get the skin off (or is that just me?).
Pots/pans to be washed up afterwards: 2 (+blender)
Prep time: 15 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
600 g potato gnocchi
1 large yellow pepper, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tins 400 g of tomato
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 ball of buffalo mozzarella, chopped into chunks
a few sprigs of fresh herb such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil
optional: a knob of butter
Heat a generous lug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the peppers. Cook over a low (LOW!) heat for at least 20 min. until soft and starting to caramelise.
Add the tinned tomatoes and herbs, plus a splash of water. Leave to simmer and thicken on a medium heat for about 10 min. Two minutes before it’s done, stir in the crushed garlic.
Transfer to a blender and leave to cool. Discard the herbs (except for basil, if using).
Blend the sauce.
Melt a knob of butter in the frying pan you used for the sauce. Pour the sauce back in and re-heat for a minute.
Take off the heat and stir in half a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Taste and add more if needed. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.
Pour over gnocchi and stir in the mozzarella chunks. Serve immediately to avoid claggy-gnocchi syndrome.