Sometimes when I have to make a first impression I freak out. Just a little.
In protest, I put off getting ready till the last minute. And when I can’t any longer, I run around the apartment with such fervor you’d think it was on fire. Hair thrown into a sumo bun, trying on clothes that never seem to fit me the way I want and wondering why I just don’t invest in spanx already.
I get wound up. I start…to sweat. Especially when I’m freaking out in the bathroom because the light is too dim to actually see my face to put makeup on.
“Stop it Lys. Seriously, stop sweating. STOP. IT.”
“Are you having a breakdown?” Roo calls out from the living room. He’s already dressed, shoes on and car keys in hand. He’s been ready for thirty minutes.
“Are you sure?”
“Talking to yourself while looking at yourself in the mirror stops underarm perspiration.”
“I don’t think it -”
“It’s a thing!”
On Monday I made Roo gnocchi alla puttanesca for the first time. Growing up, my mother would make her own version of pasta alla puttanesca, having it on dinner rotation at least once a month. It’s a quick pasta dish bathed in a spicy, pungent sauce; easy to throw together as the ingredients are commonly on hand.
This is my own twist, using my mother’s sauce and folding in light, pillowy gnocchi, an idea courtesy of Debbie Koenig. The sauce has a bit of heat from the red pepper flake, a hint of nuttiness from the miso paste and is wonderfully piquant from the briny capers. I love the sweet, braised kale, wilted down after a quick toss in the hot oil and garlic. Spinning the soft leaves around my fork, catching a gnocchi or two make a lovely bite.
To say I was nervous about Roo’s first impression is an understatement. A few seconds into eating dinner he caught me staring at him.
“Are you…are you watching me eat?”
“No.” I continued to watch Roo out of the corner of my eye as he shifted his attention back to his plate. Slowly, carefully, I lifted my napkin to blot my forehead.”Is it good?”
“It’s good,” Roo said, looking back up at me. “Wait, are you sweating?”
Adapted from Debbie Koenig and Mom
A sharp knife
A dutch oven or a large oven safe pot (*you could also use a large pan that’s not oven proof then transfer it to a baking dish)
1 tablespoon of mild tasting olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced (I love a garlicky sauce, if you don’t, use 2 cloves)
1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes (I love heat, but if you don’t start with a quarter to half a teaspoon)
1 tablespoon of white miso paste (I used white)
1 bunch of kale (about a pound), leaves torn off of stems into easily edible pieces
One 28 ounce can of (preferably) no-salt added crushed tomatoes
1 – 2 tablespoons of capers, rinsed and drained (please rinse your capers or else your sauce will be too briny)
One 1 pound package of vacuum packed gnocchi
Dollops of cashew goat cheese to top at serving (optional)
Place your oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Add the olive oil to your dutch oven and place it on a burner over medium heat.
When the oil starts to shimmer, add the diced onion. Stir occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent. Add the garlic and red pepper flake, cooking till fragrant (about a minute). Add the miso paste. Stir the paste into the ingredients till combined. Add the kale in batches, tossing it into the oil, onion and other ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, then add the next batch of kale. Keep adding and cooking everything down until all the kale is wilted. This should take about three minutes.
Add the tomatoes and stir it into the ingredients till combined. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat immediately so that the sauce is at a simmer.
Simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the capers and gnocchi. Stir the ingredients till they’re well distributed.
The sauce is going to look quite wet but don’t worry! The gnocchi is going to absorb a lot of that liquid.
Bake the gnocchi for 30 to 40 minutes (uncovered). The sauce should be bubbling when you remove it out of the oven.
If using the cashew goat cheese, top each serving with a few dollops.
This pasta makes great leftovers and the sauce tastes even better (in my opinion) the next day.