This was Rob's birthday dinner so I splurged and bought a lot of the ingredients Central-Market-style. Let's just say Rob ate it for 3 days and was really excited each day. I also bought a loaf of Cheddar Rosemary bread and made up some olive oil with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper. YUM! (My gnocchi was definitely not as impressive as Emilee's homemade...but I'm just not there yet :))
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces bacon, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 pound coarsely ground beef (look for "chili grind")
2 tablespoons brandy or red wine
3 shallots, chopped
1 cup diced carrots
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 15-ounce can plum tomatoes
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 1-inch strips orange peel
2/3 cup nicoise olives, pitted and chopped
1 package (about 1 pound) vacuum-packed gnocchi
Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and garlic; cook until the bacon starts to brown, about 4 minutes. Add the ground beef; cook, stirring, 3 minutes. Add the brandy, shallots, carrots, celery and tomato paste; cook until the vegetables soften, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Crush the tomatoes into the pan with your hands and add any juices from the can. Stir in the broth, bay leaf, orange peel and olives. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat; cover and cook 20 minutes. Uncover, increase the heat and bring to a boil to thicken the sauce.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil the gnocchi until one floats to the top, about 1 minute. Drain immediately to prevent the gnocchi from becoming mushy. Remove the orange peel and bay leaf from the sauce and season with salt and pepper. Toss the gnocchi with the sauce.