Sunday, March 27, 2011

Italian Beef Stew with Gnocchi

With another cold snap making spring feel further away than ever, I'm back to making my winter standbys.  For Sunday night's dinner, I was planning on slow-cooked pot roast when I saw a package of mini gnocchi peeking out from behind the row of pasta boxes in the pantry.  Since my thoughts on pot roast were already leaning Italian, the gnocchi seemed like the perfect thing to turn it into a stew, and cut down on the number of pots used.

I was so glad when the stew turned out really well.  The beef practically fell apart on its own, and the gnocchi absorbed the subtle spice of the sauce.  And even better, its quick prep time before putting everything in the slow cooker meant that this didn't cut into my weekend.

Italian Beef Stew with Gnocchi

2 Tbsp. olive oil, bacon fat or butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
Salt & pepper, to taste
2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup red or white wine
1 28-oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
1-2 cups low-sodium beef broth
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
3-5 lb. chuck roast
1 16-oz. package mini or regular gnocchi, or homemade

How to make it:

Heat olive oil (or other fat) in a deep saucepan or stovetop-safe slow-cooker insert.  Add onions and carrots, stir to coat with oil, and saute until starting to brown.  Season with salt and pepper, and add garlic, oregano, cinnamon and nutmeg, and cook until fragrant.  Pour in wine, scraping pan to get the brown bits.  If using a saucepan, pour the contents into the slow cooker insert now.

Add tomatoes, 1 cup of the broth and the balsamic vinegar, and stir to combine.  Place the meat into the sauce, adding enough broth for the sauce to come halfway up the meat.  Cook in the slow cooker on low for 8-10 hours.

About a half hour from the end of the cooking time, remove any large pieces of fat, gristle or connective tissue from the beef, and shred the meat into large chunks.  Add the gnocchi to the stew.  When gnocchi is done, serve in wide bowls.

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