Hey you! Do you like cheese? I don’t mean those neon orange pre-wrapped slices of cheese product, although at one time I thought they were the bees knees, no, I mean curdled animal milk. Do you like curdled animal milk? Maybe I should start over. Excuse me, are you a fan of cheese? When you think of snacking does the image of a nice block of sharp cheddar come into view? Or maybe a lovely salad with gorgonzola, walnuts, and pears? How about a french baguette and some brie? Those are all delicious options but may I offer you something even better? Something so deliciously creamy it almost melts in your mouth? A cheese that has a sweetness that cannot be replicated by other lesser cheeses? That little white ball of amazing that doesn’t need to be consumed with anything else but still plays well with a super thin slice prosciutto or a freshly picked tomato? What kind of wonderous cheese is this? Why mozzarella di bufala, of course. What? You’ve never heard of such a thing? Or maybe you’ve heard of it but never tried it? Oh, so you’ve tried some form of it in the Italian restaurant down the street and don’t see what the big deal is? I’ll tell you what the big deal is, you need to get yourself on a plane and come to Naples to try some mozzarella di bufala, for reals.
See, here’s the thing, me and milk products we don’t get along so well. We had a nice thing going for years and then one day…let’s just say we’re no longer friends. The thing is that for whatever reason I can eat buffalo mozzarella with no problem. Since I haven’t eaten cheese in a couple years I’ve kinda been going crazy with the mozzarella. The best way to eat it is straight up but the other night we had it with prosciutto and tomatoes, it was pretty delicious, I highly recommend it.
Tonight we had one of my favorite things to get at the local restaurants here (they all have pretty much the same basic menu) and that’s gnocchi alla Sorrentina. It’s fluffy little potato dumplings in a cheesy tomato sauce. It’s super easy to make and takes only about 10-15 minutes because I use store bought ingredients. You certainly could make everything from scratch but as I’ve repeatedly stated I’m pretty lazy and need to be highly motivated to make anything that takes more than 30 minutes. The recipe follows:
1 package of gnocchi
1 1/2 – 2 cups of tomato sauce
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil (or a couple leaves of fresh basil, torn)
12 ounces of cubed mozzarella (buffalo mozzarella is preferred but any will work)
1/4 cup of shredded parmigiano reggiano
salt and pepper to taste
sugar or honey to sweeten the tomato sauce is optional
The gnocchi only take a few minutes to cook so it’s better to do the sauce first but make sure to put the water on to boil. Put all of the ingredients except the gnocchi and cheese in a pot and bring it to a simmer. At this point you’ll need to check the seasoning for the sauce – if it’s on the bitter side adding a little sugar or honey will help get rid of that. Once the water boils make sure to salt it before putting in the gnocchi. After cooking for the allotted time (usually 2-3 minutes, they’ll float when done) drain the gnocchi and return to the pot. Add the tomato sauce and the cheese to the gnocchi and stir to combine. Recipe makes enough for 2-3 people.
Traditionally this would be put in a dish and placed in the oven for several minutes to melt the cheese further and create a sort of crust but, again, lazy me isn’t going to take that step. We had it with some chewy Italian bread and some red wine. If you can’t make it over here to try it then at least give it a try at home.