When it comes to enjoying food, there are few things I love more than a well prepared bowl of gnocchi. When dining out if I see gnocchi on the menu, and I know that it is made in house, I almost always order it. Here in Umbria, gnocchi is almost always potato based, and usually topped with a hearty sauce, often a duck ragu, or maybe a sauce made from the local Sagrantino wine such as in this recipe. Sagrantino wine is Umbria’s most famous red wine grown only around the town of Montefalco. This wine a very dry, very tanic wine that is aged for 30 months, of which at least 12 months must be in oak barrels. The wine is a DOCG, the highest-ranking category of Italian wine denominations. There are many dishes made here in Umbria that feature Sagrantino wine including sauces made for pasta and gnocchi, risotto dishes, and a myriad of meat based dishes.
This sauce is adapted from a recipe by Giorgio Barchesi, a chef from the Antonelli winery, one of the larger wineries in Umbria producing Sagrantino wines. What I love most about this sauce is that the wine is cooked down, removing the strong alcohol flavor. The wine is also combined with guanciale, a cured pork product made from pig jowls which adds another flavor note to the sauce. Heavy cream is added to the sauce as well, creating a very luxurious sauce that is honestly so flavorful that you’ll want to offer some crusty bread with this dish to sop up every last bit. Since the sauce is made with a dark red wine reduction, it ends up a lovely jewel color and it looks best served on white or light colored dinnerware.
I used Colfiorito potatoes in my recipe, which are locally produced red skinned potatoes with a very yellow interior. These potatoes are perfect for making gnocchi because they are very dense though become very tender when cooked. This results in the gnocchi needing less flour which creates a very light textured gnocchi. If you are new to making gnocchi, you may find my tutorial How To Make Potato Gnocchi helpful. Since Sagrantino wine production is small, it can be an elusive wine to locate outside of Umbria, but any dry, full-bodied red wine can be used in this recipe. Pancetta can be used in place of the guanciale as well.
Vineyard in Umbria
Another Vineyard in Umbria
Deborah Mele 2015
For The Gnocchi:
- 2 Pounds Baking Potatoes (About 4 Potatoes)
- 1 1/2 Cups Of All-purpose Flour
- 2 Egg Yolks
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
For The Sauce:
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 2 Ounces Guanciale (Or Pancetta), Finely Diced
- 1 Small Sweet Onion, Diced
- 2 Garlic Cloves, Diced
- 1 1/2 Cups Full Bodied Dry Red Wine Such as Sagrantino di Montefalco
- 1 1/2 Cups Heavy Cream
- Salt & Pepper To Taste
- 1/3 Cup Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese
- To make the gnocchi, place your potatoes on a baking tray and bake in a 375 degree F. preheated oven until they are fork tender.
- Slice the potatoes in half, and once cool enough to handle use a spoon to scoop out the interior of the potatoes.
- Use a potato ricer and push all of the potatoes through. Place your riced potatoes in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of salt and two egg yolks.
- Add about 3/4 of the flour to the bowl and stir briefly with the spoon to mix. Dump the dough mixture onto a floured surface and knead with your hands, adding the rest of the flour as needed until you have a smooth dough. Knead as briefly as you can to create your dough being careful not to over-work the dough which makes it tough.
- Break off a fist full of dough and with your fingers roll the dough into a tube. Depending on how thick your tube is will determine how large your gnocchi turn out. Use a sharp knife to cut your gnocchi to the size you desire. (Generally as a rule, I cut them them the same size as they are thick. If I roll my tube one inch thick, I will then cut the gnocchi in one inch pieces.)
- Although once cut, the gnocchi are fine just the way they are, you can roll your thumb over them to create an indentation which will help them hold the sauce. Once your gnocchi are cut, place them on a lightly floured baking sheet and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
- To make the sauce, heat the oil over medium heat until lightly smoking, then add the guanciale until it is no longer pink, about 6 minutes. Add the onions and cook until lightly browned, about 8 minutes, then add the garlic and cook another minute or two unitil fragrant. Add the wine and cook over medium heat until the wine has just about completely evaporated, about 18 to 20 minutes.
- Add the cream, and season with salt and pepper. Let the sauce cool a bit, then transfer it to a food processor or blender and process until creamy smooth. Return the sauce to the saucepan and keep warm.
- To cook the gnocchi drop them into a large pot of lightly salted water and as soon as most of them rise to the top (a few minutes) they are cooked.
- Drain the gnocchi, then return to the pot. Add the sauce and grated pecorino cheese to the pot and gently toss to coat. Serve, offering additional cheese at the table.