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CHEF'S CORNER

 
It's Thursday in Rome - Time For Gnocchi!
Gnocchi al Rag� di Funghi
(Gnocchi with Mushroom Sauce)
By: Angelo DeCecco

 

 

Gnocchi is considered the obligatory plate on Thursdays in Rome. Having lived in the Eternal City for the past year, it has been enjoyable to walk around on Thursdays and see all the stores selling homemade gnocchi. Usually, these are potato gnocchi, but I have also noted gnocchi made with chestnut flour (instead of normal flour) and "Gnocchi alla Romana" (Gnocchi Roman style- made with semolina flour and milk). Our Roman friends normally make their gnocchi with a rag� di carne (meat sauce) or a tomato basil sauce, however for this recipe, I decided to try something different. Like the weekly occurrence of gnocchi each Thursday, each October brings Rome small trucks delivering porcini mushrooms from the countryside. You see these beat-up trucks sitting by the roadside filled with crates of these large whitish funghi. The vendors claim the hot, dry summer drastically reduced the yield and prices have ranged from 25-35 Euro per kilo. The name porcini derives from the Italian word for piglet or porcino. Some believe the name comes from the fondness wild pigs have for eating them; others believe the name has been ascribed to the resemblance of the mushroom to piglets. Whatever the meaning, this funghi is the wild mushroom par excellence rewarding the chef with versatile cooking ingredient and the consumer with a tasty delight. Despite the high price, October without porcini is like Thursdays without gnocchi, so I decided to try a recipe that would mix the best of these two occurrences: gnocchi and porcini mushrooms. This tasty recipe is very easy to make and packed with flavor. I decided to match this mushroom sauce with the best ever potato gnocchi recipe - my grandmothers! The mushroom rag� can be made in advance and the sauce can be frozen for use later. The sauce on its own is also a wonderful side dish to meat plates. Enjoy e buon appetito!
 
My Grandmother's (Noni) Gnocchi Recipe:
 
Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs -Idaho Potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup of parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt
 


 

Instructions:
 
Peel and place potatoes in a pot of boiling water. Boil until soft. Drain potatoes and rice while still warm. Combine the ingredients and work into a soft dough. Cover work area in flour. Break off baseball size piece of dough and roll into long tubes - about as thick as your thumb. Cut into 1" pieces. Roll each piece down a flour covered cheese grater. Set aside on a flour covered surface and cover with a light cloth (Gnocchi are susceptible to humidity so wait until the last minute to make the individual gnocchi). To cook, drop a few at a time into a slightly boiling pot of water. Potato gnocchi are done when they float to the top. Place sauce over the gnocchi and eat immediately.
 
Note: Romans make their gnocchi smaller than mentioned in this recipe. Photos above is Roman style gnocchi.
 
Mushroom Rag�
 
Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery - not too large
  • 1 -1/2 lbs + (500 gr) of mixed mushrooms (can use frozen); use a variety: can be button, porcini, shitake, etc., but a mix is best
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt
 


 

Instructions:
 
Chop the onion, carrot and celery.
 
Cut the mushrooms into very small cubes. If you use frozen mushrooms let soften just a little and cut them.
 
Saut� the veggies in oil, when soft add mushrooms and salt.
 
Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, let all the water evaporate and briefly saut� the mushrooms.
 
Place the mushroom ragu on the gnocchi, gently mix. Serve with a fleeting amount of parmesan cheese - you don't want to subdue the flavor of the porcini mushrooms!
 


 

Wine combination:
 
Epicureans say the best porcini mushrooms are found in the same place as the incomparable white truffles - the Piedmont region of Italy (See my January 2007 article on the Piedmont region of Italy). Thus, I took a risk and served this dish with a red wine from the Piedmont region of Italy to match the taste of the porcini mushrooms: Barbara d'Alba. While this is a relatively robust red wine, it went well with the strong taste of the mushrooms. Another choice may have been a Chardonnay from the Piedmont as it is a more full bodied white wine.
 
 
 

Angelo a Penn State Grad, has had the great fortune of seeing the world with the US Army over the past 25 years. He currently lives in Rome, Italy where he spends the day contemplating making and eating food.
 
 
 
 

2017
 
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