homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and toasted walnuts

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Some of my favorite memories of my time studying abroad in Siena, Italy were when my mother came to visit.  She had some time off of work, and so she was able to come out to visit for two weeks.  I loved playing tour guide – leading her down the winding cobblestone streets of Siena, taking her to my local fruttivendolo to buy fresh produce for dinner and ordering us train tickets in my very rudimentary Italian.  For the first time, it felt that the roles were reversed somewhat – that I was guiding her through a foreign terrain, and I felt very grown up indeed.

One of my favorite places to take visitors back in those days was San Gimignano, a beautiful and picturesque hillside town in Tuscany, about an hour’s bus ride from Siena.  In the medieval style that is common in that area, the town was surrounded by stone walls.  As we walked along the perimeter of the town, just inside the walls, we stumbled upon a perfectly quaint trattoria with an outdoor patio overlooking the endless fields of Cypress trees below.  One of us {I can’t remember which one as my family shares everything} ordered a gnocchi pasta with a gorgonzola and walnut sauce.  It was sublime.  The setting, my newfound independence and love for the Italian way of life, this charming hillside town, sharing this incredible meal with my mother – that was a perfect moment.  As I sit here remembering it, it truly felt as if it were a dream, and I am unsure if any of it really happened.

Still dreaming about the light, pillowy gnocchi I made a few weeks back, I knew that I had to pair it with this extraordinary sauce.  The sharpness of the gorgonzola is mellowed slightly in the sauce such that it becomes almost sweet.  The toasted walnuts are the perfect accompaniment, lending a crunchy texture to the otherwise almost ethereal sauce.  For one Sunday afternoon, I was transported to that culinary moment, and ate very slowly, savoring each delightful memory.

Recipes continued after the jump>>>

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Recipes

Gorgonzola and Walnut Sauce

Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

  • 3/4 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 pound good quality Gorgonzola
  • 1/3 c. whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt
  • 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 pound gnocchi {see recipe above}
  • 1/3 c. freshly grated Parmesan

In a large dry skillet, toast the chopped walnuts until fragrant.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In same skillet, put the Gorgonzola, milk, butter and one or two pinches of salt, and turn on the heat to low.  Stir with a wooden spoon, mashing the cheese with the back of a spoon and, as it begins to dissolve, incorporating it with the milk and butter.  Cook for a minute or two until the sauce has a dense, creamy consistency.  Take off the heat until the moment you are nearly ready to drain the pasta.

Shortly before the gnocchi is cooked, add the heavy cream to the sauce and stir over medium low heat until it is partially reduced.  Add sauce to the gnocchi as each batch is retrieved from the pot and transferred to a platter, and toss with the sauce.  Add 1/3 cup grated Parmesan and toss thoroughly to melt it.  Sprinkle with toasted walnuts and chives, if desired.  Serve immediately.

Homemade Potato Gnocchi

Adapted slightly from 101 cookbooks

  • 2 pounds Russet potatoes {about 2 large Russet potatoes}
  • 1/4 c. egg, lightly beaten {for me, this was 1 egg}
  • 1 c. all purpose flour
  • fleur de sel or other fine grain sea salt

Fill a large pot with cold water. Salt the water, then cut potatoes in half and place them in the pot. Bring the water to a boil and cook the potatoes until tender throughout, this takes roughly 30-40 minutes.

Remove the potatoes from the water one at a time with a slotted spoon. Place each potato piece on a large cutting board and peel it using a paring knife before moving on to the next potato. Also, peel each potato as soon as possible after removing from the water {without burning yourself}. Be mindful that you want to work relatively quickly so you can mash the potatoes when they are hot. To do this you can either push the potatoes through a ricer {which I did} or deconstruct them one at a time on the cutting board using the tines of a fork – run the fork down the sides of the peeled potato creating a nice, fluffy potato base to work with. Don’t over-mash – you are simply after an even consistency with no noticable lumps.

Let the potatoes cool spread out across the cutting board for about 5-10 minutes, or long enough so that the potatoes have cooled enough that the egg won’t cook when it is incorporated into the potatoes. When you are ready, pull the potatoes into a soft mound using a large pastry scraper. Drizzle with the beaten egg and sprinkle 3/4 cup of the flour across the top. Using the pastry scraper, incorporate the flour and eggs into the potatoes until the egg is incorporated throughout and you can see the hint of yellow from the yolk. Scrape underneath and fold, scrape and fold until the mixture is a light crumble. Very gently, with a feathery touch knead the dough. This is also the point you can add more flour {a sprinkle at a time} if the dough is too sticky. I found that I didn’t need to add any additional flour, but this may have been because I used 2 large Russet potatoes that were closer to 1.5 pounds total. The dough should be moist but not sticky. It should feel almost billowy. Cut dough into 8 pieces. Gently roll each 1/8th of dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb. Use a knife to cut pieces every 3/4-inch. Dust with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi hold a fork in one hand and place a gnocchi pillow against the tines of the fork, cut ends out. With confidence and an assertive {but light} touch, use your thumb and press in and down the length of the fork. The gnocchi should curl into a slight “C” shape, their backs will capture the impression of the tines as tiny ridges {good for catching sauce later}. Set each gnocchi aside, dust with a bit more flour if needed, until you are ready to boil them.

Bring a fresh pot of water to a boil. Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time. Once they all have risen to the top, cook for another 2-4 minutes, or until gnocchi are tender when tested. Fish them out of the water a few at a time with a slotted spoon or spider into the serving bowl and spoon some gorgonzola sauce over each batch {see recipe above}. Continue cooking in batches until all the gnocchi are done.

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33 Responses to homemade gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce and toasted walnuts

  1. Love that kind of simple, yet delicious treats. Beautiful!

  2. chefconnie says:

    My daughter and I have been talking about making gnocchi. Maybe we will try this recipe for Easter.

  3. Cecile says:

    I’ve always wanted to make gnocchi – and now I’m going to. This recipe looks so delicious!

  4. looks delish..my eldest sister would just love this!..she makes a sweet potato gnocchi..but i think i would like your blue cheese sauce better… lovely post..sarah

  5. shellakers says:

    Dang! This looks delicious! A few weeks ago, I was looking for a recipe for Gnocci … I wish I would have seen this then. The one I used wasn’t that great 😦

    Anyway… I’ve nominated you for the Liebster Award! Congratulations 🙂 Now remember, don’t feel obligated… just have fun if you want to and know that I admire you! Here’s the link!
    http://michelledicken.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/congratulations-to-me-i-won-the-liebster-award/

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you so much Michelle! I really appreciate the nomination, and all of your support – I am honored and grateful. Please do let me know if you try this recipe and what you think! xo

  6. maggiesause says:

    This literally makes my mouth water…

  7. Oh my! I must try making this!! Sounds and looks so good.

  8. Delicious, I am going to try your gnocchi recipe. Mine has more flour and I think that’s why they are not pillowy like yours. I love the gorgonzola and walnut sauce with these. I felt like i was walking down that cobblestone street with you, beautifully descriptive.

  9. Beautiful – I really need to make gnocchi again. Thanks so much for reminding me!

  10. That sounds delicious. I studied for a year in Florence, love Siena and San Gimignano, hoping to revisit soon! Sounds like you have great memories.

  11. ladyredspecs says:

    Yum!! You can’t beat a well made classic. You have a light hand, it’s simple to make claggy gnocchi, hard to get it right! Time this dish was on our dinner menu again. Thanks!

  12. beautiful gnocchi, and i love the combination of the cheese and nuts!

  13. Gorgonzola is simply one of the best blue cheeses – so sweet and distinctive and complemented so well by walnuts, ideal with your lovely gnocchi. Wish I was in Tuscany…

  14. Gorgonzolla tends to make everything kind of fancy, but this recipe is sort of Bon Appetite level. What talent!

  15. What’s not to love about this post? Homemade gnocchi and fresh sauce –delicious! Beautiful photos too. A really lovely post Lindsay. xo

  16. Karen says:

    What a lovely dish…it is always nice to recreate something from our travels and you did such a great job. San Gimignano has changed so much over the years. Hundreds of buses stop there now dropping off tourists…it is so crowded except in the evenings.

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      I know! I seriously think that I was in Italy when it was still perfect – it was just after the Under the Tuscan Sun book came out, and all of the Tuscan villages were not completely overrun with tourists. I am sure that if I went back to San Gimignano now, it wouldn’t be nearly as good as my memories of it. 😦

  17. Pingback: gnocchi belli – a collection of beautiful gnocchi recipes | { fleur de sel }

  18. chef mimi says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

  19. Oh, Lindsay, lady, you’re killing me, lol. This looks so delicious! And gorgonzola and walnuts … the perfect combination!

    And what a wonderful thing to read about your experience in Italy: playing tour guide, sharing a wonderful meal with your mom … all of it, so special and what a wonderful picture you painted for us =) Meals like that are so special and recipes linked to experiences all the more special. Thanks so much for sharing both. xo

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you Christina. It’s funny – my memory for things generally is not great {my sister teases me about this all the time as she has the memory of an elephant} but I always remember what I ate. Funny how food is like that, a least for certain of us! xo

  20. Helena says:

    I’m truly impressed by your mastering of gnocchi making ! And the association of blue cheese and walnuts is such a foolproof one, I love this whole dish !

  21. Reblogged this on Haute Mom Living and commented:
    Sincerely brings us back to one of our favorite restaurants in Cortona, Italy!

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