Gnocchi with Chicken Sausage & Apples in Gorgonzola Cream Sauce – a perfect flavor pairing for Autumn

Apples from our local farmer’s market

Yes, Autumn is here and it’s time to celebrate the ingredients that are at their peak of perfection. Apples are available year-round of course, but the flavor and crisp texture are unrivaled this time of year. You’ll find the best selection and highest quality if you get them at your local farmer’s market (unless you grow them yourself!).

I first got the idea from the amazing flavor combination of gorgonzola cheese with apples. The addition of the sausage turned out to be brilliant in my humble opinion. Feel free to use pork sausage if you prefer.

Making gnocchi from scratch is time consuming but loads of fun if you like to cook … and even more fun if you do it with others who like to cook also. But feel free to buy gnocchi. You can find vacuum packed gnocchi at Trader Joe’s and other stores. If you want to make your own, I’m attaching a recipe PDF here.

Feel free to substitute pasta for the gnocchi. I would use a substantial short pasta such as rigatoni, or possibly farfalle (which we call bowtie but actually translates butterfly).

The sauce for this recipe is a cream sauce. Feel free to make extra if you want to enjoy some another evening (with Fettucine Alfredo for instance). The best cream for making this is the extra heavy whipping cream with 40% fat. We used the Darigold brand at Frankie’s and it is available in most supermarkets as well as Costco. It reduces better than lighter creams without separating. Unfortunately, it is usually only available in half gallon sizes. The next best option, available in pints, is 36% Heavy whipping Cream.

In this recipe, I call for sausage links. I prefer it this way, but bulk sausage would also work. You’ll find the recipe written out below, or available as a printable PDF.

Buon appetito! Frankie

Serves 4 as a main course / 6 as a first course

  • 1 recipe Potato Gnocchi (or one pound store bought gnocchi or pasta)
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts–toasted
  • 4 Chicken Italian sausage links (or pork if you’d prefer)
  • 1 pint heavy cream
  • 6 ounces gorgonzola cheese
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 cups diced apples (I prefer Gala)
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic–minced
  • Parmesan (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano) – grated or curled
  • Chopped herb such as Italian parsley or sage for garnish

Procedure:

  • If making your own gnocchi, prepare as per recipe available above. Set aside.
  • To toast walnuts, place in a dry skillet over low to medium heat and toast, stirring occasionally until medium brown and fragrant–about 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside and wipe skillet with paper towel.
  • Add a little olive oil to the skillet and cook sausages over medium heat until the exterior is well browned. Add enough water to cover the sausages about two-thirds. Bring to a brisk simmer and continue to cook, adding additional water if needed, until the sausages reach an internal temperature of 165º F. Set sausages aside to cool. Wipe out skillet.
  • Add cream to skillet and simmer over low-medium heat until reduced by about 20%. Add white wine and simmer for about 2 minutes longer. Add gorgonzola cheese and lemon juice and stir in to melt cheese. Remove from heat.
  • Bring 3 to 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot for cooking gnocchi. When water comes to a boil, add a tablespoon of salt.
  • While water is heating, slice sausages into bite size pieces. Heat a little oil in a straight-sided skillet over medium heat. Add sliced sausages and diced apples and sauté until apples begin to soften and caramelize. Add garlic. Stir and cook one additional minute.
  • Add sauce to pan with sausage and apples. Turn to very low heat.
  • Working in batches, add gnocchi to water and cook until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain.
  • When all gnocchi are cooked, add them to the pan with the sauce, sausage and apples. Gently toss.
  • Platter and garnish with parmesan, and parsley or sage.

So, what kind of wine to drink with this dish? I would recommend something creamy and viscous, such as a buttery chardonnay, or something to match the sweetness of the apples such as a Gewurztraminer.

Pasta al Limone con Gamberi

Pasta with Lemon & Shrimp: An Antonio Cortese Mystery Recipe

This is my first post in a long time. For those who don’t know, I have begun to write mystery-detective novels set in Italy. The protagonist is an Italian American, an ex-detective who now owns an Italian restaurant. He has a lot of family in Tuscany (where his mother comes from), so when he returns, a lot of cooking and eating takes place. People have started to ask me for the recipes of foods featured in the stories, so I decided to begin posting them here on my food blog.

Find out more about my novels at…

https://www.frankcurtiss.com/

This recipe is featured in my second novel, Missing in Firenze, of the Antonio Cortese Mystery series. In the novel, this dish is prepared by Antonio’s Zio (Uncle) Pasquale and Zia Frankie.

Pasquale and Frankie are the owners of a lovely little boutique hotel in Positano on the Amalfi Coast. This is a traditional recipe from that area, where lemon trees abound. It is often made without the addition any meat or seafood, but it is not uncommon for the locals to add seafood of some kind. Feel free to make it either way, or with any other seafood that appeals to you. Buon appetito!

As with any recipe I highly recommend you do your Mis en Place (French term for pre-prep, meaning Everything in Place) before you start the actually cooking.

You’ll be using every part of the lemons for this recipe. The lemons I used were very large, so I zested and juiced two instead of the three medium lemons called for in the recipe. After zesting and juicing, throw the lemon rinds in the pasta water.

Now it’s time to start cooking. This is just an overview. Check the recipe for the details. First, start your pasta water heating. Next, heat your butter and olive oil until it begins to shimmer. Add your shrimp and capers, cook some, then add your garlic. Next add the white wine.

I like to use a high-quality, grass-fed butter, such as Kerrygold.

It’s important not to overcook the shrimp or they will become rubbery. When they are ALMOST fully cooked turn off the heat.

Cook your pasta a little less than al dente (about 1 minute less than package instructions). Don’t forget to reserve some starchy pasta water before you drain your pasta! It is used to add viscosity and thicken your sauce. Combine it with your lemon juice mixture.

Now, turn the heat back on under shrimp. Add pasta. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the top and toss furiously. Cook one to two minutes until pasta is al dente and shrimp are properly cooked. Platter and garnish with Italian parsley.

Raise a glass and toast those whom God has given you to love. Buon appetito!

Wine Recommendation: This pasta would pair beautifully with a white wine from Campania, such as Fiano di Avellina. If you can’t find one, I suggest a good Pinot Grigio

5-6 servings:

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta (spaghetti or linguine)

4 medium size lemons

Fresh ground black pepper—coarse ground

sea salt (or other high quality salt)

2 ounces butter (preferably grass fed)

2 ounces extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup capers (rinsed and drained)

3-4 cloves of garlic

3 ounces white wine

Italian parsley—chopped (for garnish)

12-16 ounces shrimp—peeled & deveined (and at least partially thawed if frozen)

PROCEDURE:

1. Cut one of the lemons into wedges and set aside.

2. Zest the remaining three lemons into a bowl.

3. Juice those same three lemons into the bowl with the lemon zest. Add lemon rinds to the pasta water.

4. Rinse and drain capers and set aside.

5. Slice garlic thin. Set aside.

6. Chop parsley and set aside.

7. Grind a generous amount of pepper into the lemon mixture. Add salt (start with 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon).

8. Begin to heat 4 quarts of water. When water begins to boil, add a tablespoon of salt.  

9. Add butter and oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat until it begins to shimmer.

10. Add shrimp and capers. Sauté for about two minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

11. Add white wine and allow to simmer (watch out for flame-up!). Turn off heat when shrimp are almost fully cooked.

12. When water is boiling, cook pasta until nearly “al dente” (about one minute less than package instructions).

13. Before you drain the pasta, ladle 3-4 ounces of starchy pasta water into lemon mixture. Drain pasta.

14. Turn the heat back on under shrimp. Add pasta. Pour the lemon juice mixture over the top and toss furiously. Cook one to two minutes until pasta is al dente and shrimp are properly cooked.

15. Platter and garnish with Italian parsley.

16. Raise a glass and toast those whom God has given you to love.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi… a perfect comfort food for Autumn

Happy chef!

Autumn has already arrived here in the Pacific Northwest.  Not many leaves have changed color yet but we’re getting plenty of cool and wet days.  So let’s warm you up with some comfort food.  This dish feels like Autumn to me.  Maybe it’s the color of the sweet potatoes that make it feel that way.

Making your own gnocchi takes a little time and practice but it really is not difficult and once you start to get the hang of it, it is great fun. If you want to double or triple the fun, make them with some friends or family.  Or even more fun still, hire me (Frankie) to come and do a cooking class party in your home!

Peeled sweet potatoes

There are really two different recipes here, one for making the gnocchi, and the other for the way I recently made mine with Butter, Pancetta, Onions and fresh Sage.  I wanted something that would complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sweet potatoes, and this really turned out great.  If you wanted to make this vegetarian you could leave out the pancetta; and if you wanted it completely vegan, leave out the butter and use only a good extra virgin olive oil.

Using a potato ricer

If you’ve never made gnocchi be sure to read the Tips for Making Homemade Gnocchi  before you launch into the recipe.

The key is getting the dough right… not too moist… not too dry.  I instruct you add most of the flour but then you add more as needed until you get just past the point of the dough being sticky. You don’t want to overwork it or it will get tough.  You want it

Adding flour

to be no longer sticky but still supple, workable, and holding together (not crumbly).  I can’t tell you exactly how much flour because different potatoes will have different moisture levels depending on the type of potato, the baking, etc.  Besides, the amount of potato may vary also.  If your weight is a little over or under, just adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

Mixing dough

A Couple of tools are really handy when making gnocchi.  Using a potato ricer helps so the potatoes are not lumpy which will cause them to crumble.  Most cost under $25 and they are awesome to use when making mashed potatoes.  If you don’t have one, just mash the potatoes well.

Form a ball

Rolling dough

Cutting dough

Adding ridges with gnocchi board

The other tool is a gnocchi board, used for putting ridges on the gnocchi.  These are only about $6 on Amazon.  Order it today and you’ll have it in a day.  Here is the one I bought…

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Fantes-Gnocchi-Beechwood-8-Inches-Original/dp/B0019R7SPS/ref=sr_1_2?crid=15YRPY0G6TRGD&keywords=gnocchi+board&qid=1568750620&s=gateway&sprefix=gnocc%2Caps%2C213&sr=8-2

Finished gnocchi

Another tip or two:
  1. Instead of cutting the dough into balls, it will make it easier to roll out if you cut it in longer, narrower pieces.
  2. Also, if you over-flour the work surface it will make the dough harder to roll.  It will want to just slide around under your hands.

HOW I SERVED MY SWEET POTATO GNOCCHI:

Making the butter, pancetta, onion, sage sauce

As mentioned earlier I wanted something that would complement, not overwhelm, the flavor of the sweet potatoes.  A very common way to serve potato gnocchi in Italy in with a simple butter and sage sauce.  I wanted to take it to another level so I added pancetta (Italian bacon) and onions to that.  There are lots of other good ideas online. A friend told be about a sauce she did with butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, cranberries, and pecans. Sounds great, and the sweetness would work with these.

 

 

Vegetarian Option: Easy just leave out the pancetta.

Vegan Option: Our granddaughter is vegan.  They don’t do butter.  For her’s we simply eliminated that in favor of a good extra virgin olive oil (or walnut oil would be excellent).

 

Recipes are following.  If you’d prefer recipes in PDF format click below

Sweet Potato Gnocchi recipe PDF

Buona sera.  May God richly bless your table with joy, laughter, and his abundant love!

Frankie

Pizza Rustica (AKA Torta Rustica, AKA Easter Pie)

Is it a pizza?  No, not really.

Ciao amici!  With Easter coming early this year I wanted to post this in time for you to consider making it for your Easter brunch or dinner.  It is well worth the effort involved.

This is not really a pizza in the traditional sense. It is often referred to as a torta, which I think is more accurate. In Naples and southern Italy it is traditionally served on Ash Wednesday and again on Easter so it is also known as Easter Pie.

 

This dish is very unique in that it combines a sweet, tender, egg pastry dough (what the Italians call pasta frolla) with savory fillings such as prosciutto, salami, eggs, and a blend of cheeses. The sweet-savory combination comes alive in your mouth. It is one of my personal favorites.

If you are having a party or an Easter brunch, and don’t mind going to a little trouble—this delightful, unusual dish will impress your guests like few others. It looks gorgeous. It’s delicious. And it tastes unlike anything they’ve ever had before. We made it for one of our Frankie’s wine dinners and it was one of the most popular dishes we’ve ever served. It may be served hot or at room temperature.

Buon appetito!

Pizza Rustica Recipe PDF

 

 

Frankie’s Chicken Marsala… perfect for a special dinner

This recipe is is my cook book, but for those who do not have a copy I wanted to post it here. This would be a great recipe for Christmas Eve or New Year’s or any time you want to impress your friends or family. And it really is fairly easy to prepare. No special skills needed!

I tried many different recipes before developing this one. I took the best from each and developed my own recipe which I think tops them all.

Marsala is a fortified wine from the Island of Sicily.  It comes in a “sweet” or “dry” version. The recipe calls for Sweet Marsala but I’ve used Dry and liked it just as well. It is just slightly less sweet.

Hope you enjoy!  Buon appetito e buon Natale!

Chicken Marsala Recipe

Grilled Tuscan Pork

The first time I made this I almost cried because it was so good.  I had made it for some guests who raved about it.  As you know, that makes it all the more rewarding.

I have cooked this on my Big Green Egg with a light addition of smoke from apple or cherry wood.  It is amazing.  But I also made it on

someone’s gas grill recently.  I brought along my little smoker box with wood chips and set it on top of the burners.  The resul

 

ts were nearly as good.  Even if you were to oven roast it, or grill it with no wood smoke it would be delightful.


To make this you cut into the roast and lay it out, fill it with wonderful things, then roll it back up and tie it.

I am basically a klutz and no pro at cutting meat or rolling and tying it up, so if I can figure it out I am confident you can as well. One of the keys to this is not to overcook it.

Recommended cooking temperatures for pork are lower than they used to be.  I cooked mine to 145 F and it was perfect… moist, tender, and full of flavor.

You can serve this a variety of ways. I have typically served it on a bed of white beans but you can serve it with potatoes, polenta, greens, roasted squash… the options go on-and-on.

Buon appetito!

Grilled Tuscan Pork Recipe

Beef Braciole … why did it take me so long?!

Braciole is a beef roll up which hails from southern Italy. I saw a recipe which claimed to be a hundred year old family recipe, so it’s been around a long time.  For some crazy reason though, which I cannot for the life of me understand, I waited years before trying it.  Then I wondered what the heck took me so long!  It is not only delicious, but it’s really not that complicated or time consuming.  If you’d like you could serve it with pasta or over some polenta.

I’m not sure I’d classify this as a fancy dinner or rustic peasant food?  Either way I think it will impress your family or friends.

The steps are easy.  You (or your butcher) cut the steak thin, pound it out thinner, and then layer it with cheese, breadcrumbs, herbs and prosciutto… roll it up, tie it and cook it in some good tomato sauce and you’re ready to eat with a grateful heart.

Buon Appetito!  Frankie

Braciole Recipe