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Sardianian Sausage Tomato Sauce & Ciccione (Gnocchi)


I watched Celebrity Chef Lidia Bastianich making this dinner on her PBS television cooking show, very recently. I couldn't find her recipe, on the internet, but I managed to figure out how to make it-- and we loved it. The tomato sauce is very simple to make, with a nice "kick" from red pepper flakes and Italian sausage. The sardinian gnocchi was my first attempt at making any kind of pasta, from scratch. It was super simple to make-- each golden "nugget" is a dumpling (gnocchi) made with semolina flour, water and saffron (for color). They're a little time-consuming, but easy enough for kids to do. We loved this dish, and I hope that my interpretation will do both Lidia and fellow Sardinians proud, as this was my first (but not last) time making this dish. I will be posting how to make this delicious dinner on my food blog.

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  • For the sauce:
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Italian, sausage
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1 large can (32 oz.) peeled whole tomatoes (San Marzano is preferred, lightly crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (used 1/2 tsp.)
  • salt (to taste)
  • fresh basil (4-6 large leaves)
  • For the Ciccione (dumplings):
  • 4 cups semolina flour
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • pinch saffron (or you could use tumeric, which is cheaper and will give the pasta the golden color


Servings 8
Adapted from


Step 1

For the sauce:

Remove the sausage from the casing. In a bowl, pour the white wine with the sausage and gently mix it with your hands. The wine will prevent the sausage from cooking in large clumps.

Heat enough olive oil to lightly coat your pot (I use a Dutch Oven), add the onion and a little kosher salt and saute until tender-- just a couple minutes.

Add the red pepper flakes (1/2 teaspoon gave this pasta some kick, which we liked. Adjust according to your taste.
Add the sliced garlic.
Push aside some of the cooked onion & garlic and add a little more olive oil.

Add the sausage to the "hot spot" and cook until it is no longer pink, breaking it up as you go along (the wine trick really worked!)

Add the tomatoes (which I quickly pulsed in a food processor).

Season with kosher salt to taste. Add the fresh basil, whole, so it can easily be removed before serving.

Simmer, for at least an hour, on low heat.

To the 1/2 cup of hot water, add a pinch of saffron (you could use a little tumeric, which would color the pasta yellow). Stir the water and saffron to help release the golden color.

In a food processor, place 4 cups of semolina flour. With the processor turned on, slowly add 1 1/2 cups water, and then the saffron water. Watch as the water combines with the flour, the dough will begin to form. Once it all comes together, turn off the processor and remove the dough onto a floured surface.

With flour hands, knead the dough a few times and form into a round disk. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to relax in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

On a lightly floured surface, remove the dough and cut it into six pieces (in half and then in thirds). (A bench scraper works great for this and is safer for kids to use!)

Cut each section, again (in thirds is good), and roll into a "snake" about the width of a child's finger. Sprinkle a little bit of flour before cutting each "roll" into small pieces.

Using the back of a microplane (I used one for grating hard cheese, because it has large holes) place either your thumb (which I did) or your index finger and push and roll the piece of dough. It should leave an impression and have a "hole" where the delicious tomato sauce will find it's way.

With two people, the whole process of making the gnocchi/dumplings/ciccione (not sure which is the most correct term) about 45 minutes.

Place these on a baking sheet, covered with a clean tea towel.

Bring a pot of heavily salted (1/4 cup) water, to a boil.

Lift the prepared pasta by lifting the corners of the towel, and gently dump the pasta into a colander, over the sheet pan. Gently shake the colander, to remove the excess flour.

Place the pasta into the boiling water. The dumplings will double in size, and will begin to come to the surface. I cooked the pasta for about 10 minutes.

I have a "spider" which makes it easy to scoop the gnocchi out of the boiling water and placing it into the tomato sauce (don't forget to remove the cooked basil).

Right before serving, you can add fresh basil as a garnish and freshly grated parmegiano-reggiano(or hard cheese of your choice.



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