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Gnocchi Duo

In Pastas, Rice & Legumes (Beans & Grains) On November 4, 2010 0 Comments

In Italian cuisine, gnocchi are treated as a first course and are featured among the pasta dishes on a menu. Classic gnocchi are made of potatoes and flour and served with different sauces. Since it’s difficult for me to be limited to one sauce and one flavor, I serve gnocchi with a duo of sauces. This recipe calls for a tomato sauce and a walnut-olive oil drizzle over the gnocchi. It’s simple to make and a delight to the eye and palate.

Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 3 to 4

One pound (16 ounces) ready-made gnocchi (vacuum-packed or frozen)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup tomato sauce, made ahead (see tomato sauce recipe for spaghetti, previously published on this blog on 8-25-10)
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Dash ground black pepper
1/2 cup freshly ground walnuts
4 walnut halves (for garnish)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese

1. In a 5-quart saucepot, bring 3 quarts of water to a boil. Add the gnocchi and salt.

2. Cook on medium-high heat, uncovered, until gnocchi rise to the surface (about 3 to 4 minutes).

3. Transfer saucepot to a cool surface. With a slotted spoon, gently remove gnocchi from water, dividing them equally among three or four dinner plates.

4. Working with one plate of gnocchi at a time, drizzle one tablespoon of the oil on half of the gnocchi, followed by some black pepper and a sprinkle of walnuts.

5. Garnish with a walnut half. Spoon some tomato on other half of the gnocchi in plate and garnish with a parsley sprig.

6. Repeat with remaining plates of gnocchi. Ask each guest to add their own cheese.

Wine suggestion: Bordeaux (red or white).

Note: Do not overcook gnocchi, as they will become mushy and fall apart. When buying gnocchi, you may have to experiment with different brands until you find one that you like.

My favorite Italian brands are: Ferrara® and DeCecco®. Both varieties are vacuum-packed and found in the pasta section of supermarkets or international markets.

As for a frozen brand, I recently found La Salteña® gnocchi at an Argentine market/restaurant called Buenos Aires, located in Van Nuys, California.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Magnavino Wine & Food, in Bastia & Assisi (Perugia, Italy)

In Nancy's Articles On October 22, 2010 0 Comments

I’d like to share a recent culinary experience in Italy, the land of my heritage.

Last month, while in Perugia, I was highly recommended by “Paolo the Hair Stylist” to seek out Magnavino, in a town called Bastia, located in the heart of Umbria, Italy’s central region. Since Paolo told me that he was from Bastia, I heeded his advice based on two things: 1) when an Italian mentions a restaurant in his hometown, it means he is a regular there; and 2) if an Italian eats at a restaurant, it means the food is as good as Mamma’s and it’s homemade.

The proprietor of Magnavino is Mario, a chef/artist who reinvents his homeland’s traditional foods with flair. The cuisine presented by Mario boasts bold flavors and a commanding presentation. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Mario’s right hand, Stefania. She immediately served us a local Umbrian red wine with a deep oak bouquet and smooth finish. The restaurant was filled with regulars, and since Italians are demanding of fresh, high quality foods, this was definitely a good sign.

The appetizers were exquisite – we enjoyed warm homemade paté and a napoleon filled with an exquisite asparagus tapenade. We could taste each ingredient in Mario’s recipes.

The highlight of our “pranzo” or lunch that September day was the black gnocchi infused with squid ink, served with calamari and fresh tomatoes. While traditional potato gnocchi are bland, deriving their flavor from the sauce and ingredients around them, the gnocchi served at Magnavino contain nuances of fresh seafood. At first bite, one can immediately tell that Mario adds “just the right amount” of squid ink to the gnocchi.

I asked Stefania if I could meet the chef in order to compliment him on his quasi-orgasmic foods. My husband and I were escorted to the kitchen where Mario was working so hard to please all his patrons. Because he was short-staffed that day, we witnessed a multi-tasking Mario creating a zillion dishes in a furious frenzy. Nevertheless, he managed to please everyone to the max.

At Magnavino, one dines like a local and is treated as a member of the family. The ambiance is medieval-chic, the people are warm and the food – HEAVENLY!

Bastia & Assisi (two locations in the province of Perugia)
Telephone: Bastia – 075 8011569; Assisi – 075 816814.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real