While in Turin for Slow Food’s Terra Madre conference, I ate in many restaurants, and they all shared one thing: pride in trumpeting the local cuisine. It was fall, so chestnuts and mushrooms were everywhere, but the chestnut gnocchi at Al Garamond were what stuck with me. I whipped up this recipe in homage to that dish. Al Garamond serves its gnocchi with a fontina sauce, but I switched things up by topping them with another cheese from the area, Robiola Bosina.
What to buy: Chestnut and “00” flours can be found in ethnic groceries and online. Robiola Bosina is a creamy, soft-rind cheese from the Piedmont region of Italy. Its delicate flavor stars in this dish, and it can be found at specialty grocery stores and cheese shops.
Special equipment: Get a potato ricer to make this dish properly. It’s a relatively inexpensive and very useful piece of kitchen equipment to have anyway.
Game plan: The gnocchi can be formed up to 2 hours ahead of time, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, covered, and refrigerated until ready to use. Here are some tips on how to form them.
1Heat the oven to 400°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Pierce the potatoes all over and place in the oven; bake until tender when pierced with a fork, about 55 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, combine flours in a bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Set aside.
2When the potatoes are ready, remove from the oven and set aside until cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, combine egg, salt, pepper, and nutmeg and whisk until thoroughly mixed. Scoop out potato flesh and immediately pass through a ricer.
3Mound riced potatoes on a clean, dry surface and form a well in the middle. Add egg mixture to the well and, using your hands, mix just until evenly incorporated, about 2 minutes. Add flour in two parts and mix just until incorporated, about 2 to 3 minutes total. (Don’t overmix or you’ll end up with tough pasta.) Shape dough into a flat disk, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest 15 minutes.
4Divide dough into 8 even pieces and lightly roll hands back and forth over each piece to form a long rope 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut ropes crosswise into 1-inch gnocchi. Lightly flour your forefinger, your thumb, and the tines of a salad fork. Using your thumb, lightly press the cut side of the gnocchi into the back of the fork tines, then roll/flick it off with your forefinger; your thumb will leave a concave impression that’s handy for holding sauce. (Watch Aida demonstrate how to form the gnocchi in this CHOW video.) Place the gnocchi on a parchment-lined baking sheet and keep at room temperature until ready to cook.
5Bring a large pot of heavily salted water (it should taste like sea water) to a boil over high heat. Add gnocchi (make sure the pot isn’t crowded—you’ll need to do this in batches) and cook until they float to the surface, about 30 seconds. Continue to cook until al dente and the raw flour flavor is gone, about another 30 seconds. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with remaining gnocchi. Meanwhile, combine cheese and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking frequently, until cheese is melted and smooth, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to low to keep the sauce warm while the gnocchi cook.
6Once all the gnocchi are cooked, add them to the cheese sauce and gently stir to coat. Serve immediately.
Beverage pairing: Vietti Roero Arneis, Italy. The chestnuts offer a subtle sweetness, while the Robiola cheese gives richness and a slight pungency. A rich white wine is what comes to mind first, but in the Piemonte, where the cheese comes from, the whites tend to be on the light and perky side with a little floral twist, especially those made from the Arneis grape. Vietti makes a great one that has enough body to not get steamrolled by the dish, along with bright, sharp flavors to puncture the richness.
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