Tofu gnocchi with mala-spiced arrabiata ragout

I would be 100% lying if I said that this dish was not hideous to look at. I feel with pasta dishes, they are either super gorgeous, or super rustic(my way of saying that the components are just piled on top of each other because they have no other way to go on the plate). This would be the latter. When it came to what inspired this dish, it was me wanting to use my favorite tofu gnocchi, and I wanted to do something fun with it. I was lowkey inspired by cheeseburgers meet mala spice. Mala spice is a Chinese pepper blend that features Sichuan peppercorns – it gives this warming and numbing sensation which I just feel makes for a more interesting dish! In this case, I went with a beef and tomato ragout, using Italian arrabiata sauce as the base, but also infusing it with the mala spice just to make it a little more interesting – this the gnocchi is made with tofu, which is bland, the more flavor in the sauce, the tastier the dish! I added in some peas as well, more so for color, and finished it with a cheddar tuile with some sesame seeds, to tie in with both the Chinese influences of the dish, as well as the cheeseburger inspiration!

For the gnocchi:
485g soft tofu
5g salt
250g all-purpose flour

Mix together to form your dough. Pipe to 1 inch by 1 inch pieces onto a floured surface. Press with a gnocchi board or a fork to form the fridges. Boil in heavily salted water until they float, then finish in the ragout sauce.

For the ragout:
1 tspn Sichuan pepper
1 tspn pepper flakes
1 tspn anise seed
1/2 tspn sesame oil
1 tbsp canola oil
1 shallot, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
a pinch of salt
1 tspn gochujang
3 tomatoes, poached, peeled, and seeded
1/2 cup ground beef
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup peas, blanched and shocked

Sweat out the pepper, pepper flakes, anise seed, oils, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, and salt first for about 2 minutes on medium heat. Add in the gochujang, tomatoes, tomato paste, and ground beef first, cooking that all out until the beef is fully cooked. Add to that 1 cup of beef stock and reduce down until dry. Finish with the gnocchi and peas.

For the cheddar crisps:
1/4 cup finely grated cheddar cheese
1 tspn black sesame seeds

Spread cheddar onto a nonstick pan and sprinkle on the sesame seeds. Heat on low for about 5 to 8 minutes, however long it takes for the cheese to stop sizzling and to be a golden-brown color. Take off heat and gently transfer to a plate to serve.

For plating:
Start with the gnocchi and ragout first, then hide underneath the tuile. Garnish with flower petals if desired as well!

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