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Goat Cheese Gnocchi and Zasugo (Pork & Short Rib Braise)

By Duskie Estes From Moveable Feast Season 1, Ep.12
Scott Phillips

Yield: Yields about 130 gnocchi

Servings: 8 to 10

Sugo is a long-simmered Italian sauce that often includes meats, such as pork or beef. Chef Estes’s delicious version is aptly called “zasugo,” after her Sonoma county-based restaurant Zazu. This rich, tender meat sauce ladled over feathery-light goat cheese gnocchi will satisfy your innermost desires for warmth and comfort.


For the zasugo

  • 5 lb. meaty bone-in beef short ribs
  • 3 lb. bone-in pork shoulder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 medium stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 Tbs.)
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 2 14-oz. cans diced tomatoes (28 oz. total)
  • 1-1/2 cups lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tsp. chile oil, preferably Calabrian (optional)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

For the gnocchi

  • 1 lb. fresh goat cheese, crumbled
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, more for the work surface and baking sheet
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for the cooked gnocchi

For serving

  • 12 oz. unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 7 oz. (7 packed cups) baby arugula
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated  (1/2 cup on a rasp grater)


Make the zasagu

  • Position a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a 7-quart Dutch oven or heavy-duty pot over medium-high heat until it’s shimmering hot. Sear the pork shoulder on all sides until browned and caramelized, about 6 minutes. Remove the meat to a large plate. Sear the beef short ribs, in batches if necessary, on all sides until browned and caramelized, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer the ribs to the plate.
  • Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onions, carrots, and celery to the pot and cook, stirring often, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine, stirring to scrape up any browned bits, and cook until reduced by half. Return the meat to the pot, add the tomatoes, chicken broth, chile oil, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes.  Cover and bake until the meat is very tender and pulls away from bone easily, 3- to 3-1/2 hours.

Make the gnocchi

  • Combine the goat cheese, eggs, and a pinch of salt and pepper in a medium bowl, Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed until blended, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add the flour, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, beating on low speed between additions, until it is absorbed and a soft, pliable dough begins to form. You may not need all the flour. The dough should be moist and slightly sticky.
  • Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and form it into a ball. Cut the ball into quarters. Cover three of the dough pieces in plastic wrap and refrigerate. Roll the remaining piece of dough into a 1-inch thick rope, about 20 to 24 inches long, dusting with flour as needed. Using a sharp knife, cut the rope into 3/4-inch pieces and transfer them to a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat this process with the remaining dough pieces. If desired, roll each piece over a gnocchi paddle to make ridges. Lightly dust the gnocchi with flour and let rest at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Shred the zasagu

  • Remove the pot from the oven. Transfer the meat to a large bowl, and using tongs, pull off and discard the skin, fat, cartilage, and bones. Separate the meat into medium-size chunks with the tongs.
  • Skim the fat from the top of the liquid in the pot and return the meat to the pot. Add the butter and swirl the pot until the butter is melted and blended with the braising liquid. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, cover, and keep warm over low heat.

Cook the gnocchi

  • Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of well-salted water to a boil.
  • Set aside a large bowl for the gnocchi. Drop as many gnocchi into the boiling water as will fit without crowding. When the gnocchi rise to the top, continue cooking until tender, for another 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the reserved bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and gently stir with a rubber spatula to coat. Repeat this procedure with the remaining gnocchi.

To serve

  • Using tongs, transfer the meat to a deep serving dish. Spoon some of the braising liquid over the gnocchi and toss to coat. Spoon the gnocchi over the meat, and pour the remaining braising liquid over the top.
  • Toss the arugula with the olive oil in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Arrange the arugula on top of the meat and gnocchi and garnish with the cheese.

Make Ahead Tips

You can make the gnocchi and the zasugo up to a day ahead. Refrigerate the zasugo (before adding the butter) once cool. Reheat and add the butter before serving. Arrange the gnocchi on a lightly floured baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. You can also freeze the gnocchi for up to several months: freeze on the baking sheet until firm, about 1 hour, and then transfer the frozen gnocchi to an airtight plastic bag and return to the freezer.


Recipe adapted from Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking.


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