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Chiarello Italian fare built on tasty sauce

Emmy award-winning Chef, Michael Chiarello is a past competitor on "Top Chef Masters," a current competitor on "The Next Iron Chef," and is also a renowned cookbook author. His love of cooking stems from his family's southern Italian roots, complimented by the flavor of the vine.

And, in "THE Dish" on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," Chiarello demonstrated that a savory Italian meal must begin with an incredible sauce as its foundation.

Chiarello honored his roots with a dish featuring his grandmother's "Old Hen Tomato Sauce" added to ricotta gnocchi - otherwise known as, Ricotta Gnocchi with Salsa Della Nonna.

Chiarello's culinary talents flourish being both the chef and owner of the Napa valley restaurant, Bottega. There he combines his southern Italian roots with a Napa-style flare.

Chiarello's culinary roots run deep. He grew up surrounded by an Italian family of butchers, cheesemakers and ranchers, according to his official bio. His aspirations of one day becoming a renowned chef have come to fruition with a hugely successful restaurant and multiple cookbooks.

On "THE Dish," a different famous chef each week reveals what he or she would have if they could have just one meal. Check out how you can make Chiarello's dish at home with the recipe below.

Enjoy all our "Early Show" recipes!

RECIPES:

RICOTTA GNOCCHI WITH SALSA DELLA NONNA

Recipe Courtesy: Michael Chiarello's Bottega Cookbook
Makes 72 to 84 gnocchi

  • 3 pounds whole-milk ricotta, drained overnight
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, preferably gray salt
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling and dusting
  • Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
  • Salsa di Pomodoro della Nonna for serving
  • Grated Pecorino-Romano for sprinkling

The rich traditional sauce is my grandmother's old recipe. The dish is now a "can't remove" mainstay of the Bottega menu. These gnocchi have just four ingredients: ricotta, flour, egg yolks, and salt. Use a very good ricotta, such as Bellwether Farms' sheep's milk ricotta. This gnocchi needs a 48-hour lead time because you'll let the ricotta drain overnight the day before you make the gnocchi and then you'll freeze the gnocchi for 24 hours before cooking.

Drain the ricotta by lining a colander with cheesecloth and setting it in the sink. My mom used to make a little sling out of the cheesecloth and hang it right from the kitchen faucet.

You want your work surface to be cool. Marble is ideal - a marble pastry slab or countertop is best. If you don't have marble, try laying a few ice packs on the countertop while you make the dough. When you're ready to roll, put the ice back in the freezer and wipe down the work surface so it's dry. The sauce recipe makes about 4 cups, which is more than you'll need. You can't cut the recipe in half, because the chicken needs a good amount of sauce to simmer in, but having my nonna's sauce in your freezer is never a bad thing.

DIRECTIONS

Using the back of a large spoon, press the ricotta through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl. Add the egg yolks and sea salt and mix with a rubber spatula. Gently fold in the 3/4 cup flour; the less you work the dough, the lighter and more tender the gnocchi will be. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Lightly sprinkle your work surface and two baking sheets with flour. Pull off about a quarter of the gnocchi dough and gently roll it into a rope about 1 inch wide.

Using a dough scraper or a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut individual dumplings from the rope into 1-inch pieces. Gently transfer each piece to a prepared baking sheet and dust with flour so it's lightly coated. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.

Slide the pans into the freezer and freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 1 month. (Gnocchi have a better texture if they go right from the freezer to the pot.)

Heat a pot of salted water (see note, at right), and, while the water heats, put the sauce on the stove over a simmering flame so it's warm when gnocchi are cooked.

When the water comes to a boil, cook two dozen frozen gnocchi for 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, or for 30 to 45 seconds after they rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon or a wire skimmer, transfer the gnocchi to a warmed plate. Add another two dozen gnocchi to the pot and, while they cook, finish plating the batch of gnocchi you just took out of the pot.

Spoon about a dozen gnocchi per serving onto a warmed plate. Drizzle with olive oil. Spoon a little of the warm tomato sauce on top and finish with a sprinkling of pecorino.

Note: Salting Pasta Water -The Italians have a saying: "The pasta water is salted enough when it tastes like the sea." If you can't taste the salt in the water, you haven't used enough. The basic rule is 1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt for every 1 quart of water. Always reserve a bit of pasta water. If your pasta seems dry, spoon on a little pasta water and toss just before serving.

For more recipes go to page 2.