Chestnut Gnocchi with Blue Cheese

Winter is at its peak, and with its cosy atmosphere we all are craving for a little more comfort food. Chestnuts are in season and are the key ingredient of this dish, and the recipe only entails a few others. The quality of the potatoes is crucial for quality of the gnocchi: choose the old and mealy ones, which contain the least amount of water.

 Serves 4/6

  • 1 kg mealy potatoes
  • 150 gr chestnut flour
  • 150 gr plain flour
  • 1 whole free range egg, lightly beaten
  • 25 gr butter + 25 gr for the sauce
  • 120 gr Italian Bleu cheese (regular blue cheese will also work)
  • 120 ml whole milk


Place the potatoes in a large pot, unpeeled, and pour enough water to cover at least  by 4 centimeters. Add a pinch of salt, 1 tsp white vinegar and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Cook for 30/40 minutes, depending on the dimension of your potatoes. The potatoes must be completely tender and easily pierced with a skewer.

Meanwhile pass both  flours through a sieve and place directly over a chopping board. Melt 25 gr butter, beat the egg in a small bowl and set aside.

Drain and peel the potatoes while still hot and pass them through a ricer directly over the flours.

Knead rapidly, add the egg and butter and form a homogeneous dough, but do not overmix the dough or the gnocchi will become unpleasantly tough when boiling: the dough should  feel smooth and delicate to your hands.

When you have reached a uniform dough, set aside and clean the chopping board.  Dust with some flour:  in general,  remember that the more flour the dough absorbs the tougher the gnocchi will be.

Wash your hands and take a piece of dough the  size of an apple, covering the remaining dough with cling film so it won’t dry out. Roll the dough with your palms over the dusted surface and form a sort of rope about 1 ½ centimeter in diameter. Using a knife cut the rope every 2 centimeter in order to form the gnocchi, then lay on parchment paper dusted with flour. Proceed until you have used all the dough. You can  leave the gnocchi to sit on the counter  for maximum 2 hours, covered with a clean towel and dusted with some more flour.

To prepare the sauce, melt the Bleu cheese (or blue cheese) in a bain-marie, stirring constantly. Incorporate the remaining butter and keep warm.

When ready to serve, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and delicately transfer the gnocchi to boil. Let boil until they  float to the top, drain well and season with the sauce. Scatter with parmesan and black pepper and serve hot.








Three Colours Rice Ring with Stracciatella

There is an unmistakable touch of Sicily in the flavors and colours of this dish (although the rice comes from Piedmont), which goes all too well with the delicacy of the stracciatella, or burrata if you opt for that one. It features a magnificent look, full flavours and you can even make it the day ahead. 

Serves 10-12

  • 250 gr red wild rice
  • 250 gr black rice
  • 250 gr white Arborio rice
  • 80 gr pecorino cheese, grated
  • 80 gr almonds, skin removed, coarsely chopped
  • 170 gr dried tomatoes, rinsed and finely chopped
  • 12 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed under running water
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 600 gr fresh stracciatella (it is the stuffing of burrata: you can use a burrata as well, thoroughly chopped)
  • 80 gr black olives

Boil separately the three kinds of rice and let cool to room temperature.

Combine the tomatoes, almonds, pecorino cheese and capers in a food processor and work until you reach the consistency of a rough cream.

Divide the sauce in three parts, and with each one dress the rices, one at a time. Squeeze the lemon juice into the rice, mix well and set aside.

Grease a tin with some oil and first place the black rice with the help of a spoon. Even the surface, then add the white rice, and finally the red one on top. Press well with the spoon in order to eliminate any bubbles and tap the tin on the table to stabilize the content. Close the tin with plastic film and refrigerate for at least 12 hours.

Unmold the tin on a plate, pop the stracciatella into the center and decorate with some black olives and additional whole almonds.



Peas and Mint Veggie-Vegan Soup

Feeling a little heavy after Christmas? Let’s have a soft detox with this  warm, creamy and healthy veggie-vegan soup: if you want to go vegan, simply omit the feta cheese.

Serves 4

  • 350 fresh or frozen peas (they are not in season!)
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 8 sprigs fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tbsp extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 red chilli pepper,  thinly chopped
  • 100 gr feta cheese
  • 30 gr almonds, skin on, coarsely chopped

Fry the onion in a heavy-based pan with the extravirgin olive oil and the red chilli pepper. Add the potato cubes and let cook for 10 minutes. Add the peas, mix thoroughly and pour in the pan 500 ml of vegetable stock or boiling water: you might need more, depending on the quality of the potato you chose. Let simmer for further 10 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste and the mint leaves as well (washed and drained). Place in a food processor and whizz until smooth and creamy.

Dice the feta cheese, transfer the soup in 4 bowls and scatter with the feta or almonds, if you fancy the vegan option.

Squash Tortelli

The history of the squash tortelli begins in Northern Italy, more precisely in Mantova, during the Renaissance, probably with the contribution of a Jewish cook. Originally a dish of the peasants, due to its ingredients which don’t include meat (which was too expensive at the time), the squash tortelli became a must have on the table of the rich and were soon established as a tradition for the dinner of 24th December, when Catholics are not allowed to eat meat. Many versions of this sort of tortelli are reported: during the centuries, the Italian cuisine developed a lot of different recipes, especially the city of Cremona, which changed the original recipe by removing the squash and adding other stuff in order to have some really sweet tortelli. The following is the recipe I found in the kitchen diary of my family. My personal touch is in the balance of the super traditional ingredients. 

Serves 6

  • 400 gr plain flour
  • 4 free range eggs
  • 1,5 kg peeled and deseeded squash
  • 75 gr Mostarda di Cremona (not to be confused with mustard: it is a sort of slightly spicy apple jam, probably available in Italian grocery shops or certainly on line)
  • 100 gr Amaretti biscuits, crumbled
  • 150 gr good Italian parmesan, grated
  • 1 spoon chopped parsley
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • a pinch of nutmeg, grated
  • 100 gr butter, melted
  • 5-6 sage leaves

The day ahead prepare the filling: cut the squash into thick slices and place on a tray lined with parchment paper. Brush with a few drops of extravirgin olive oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 180°C until tender and golden.

Use a pestel and mortar to reduce the Amaretti to a crumble.

Let the squash cool at room temperature and whizz with a food processor until creamy. Add the Mostarda, Amaretti, parmesan, cinnamon, nutmeg, parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let it rest in the fridge for 24 hours before using.

Place the eggs, flour and a half of an egg shell amount of water into a food processor or a kneading machine. Knead for 5-7 minutes until you obtain a smooth lump. Wrap with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

If you want to make the dough the traditional way, by hand, place the flour on a large board, make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into it. Beat the eggs with a fork and incorporate the flour little by little scraping the side, until the eggs and flour are thoroughly combined. Knead the dough working with the back of your wrists for at least 10 minutes, working with a regular rhythm until you obtain a smooth and uniform lump of dough. Also in this case, wrap the dough with cling film and let it rest in the fridge for one hour.

Now fetch the dough from the fridge and knead it by hand for an additional 5 minutes working with the back of your wrists and adding a small quantity of flour if needed. Dust the board with some flour (not a lot or your dough will become dry), press the dough out flat with your fingertips and roll using a rolling pin until very thin.  Cut into squares of 4/5 cm and place around half a teaspoon of the filling in the centre. At this point brush the sides with a bit of water, so that the tortelli will be more stiffly closed.

Fold the filled squares in a shape of a triangle, pressing with your fingertips along the sides. Pinch one end of the triangle, then using the other two fingers wrap the opposite end around your first index finger, then press the two ends together, and voilà your tortello is ready.

While closing the tortelli, place on a clean tea cloth dusted with flour, then boil in hot salted water for 4-5 minutes. Drain well, season with the butter, previously melted in a little pan with the sage, and serve immediately.