DaVinci Wine Cookbook: page 6 [of 10] PRIMI
Primi. The ‘first course’ is generally a starch. Italians spread out their courses, so no two things go on a plate. Contorni are the sides, salad is separate and pasta stands alone. No piling multiple things---in Italy each course is deserving of its own plate. The Primi coarse includes everything from pasta (with ragu, seafood or just garlic and oil) to risottos, polenta, gnocchi and gnudi. Gnocchi are olive-size potato dumplings; gnudi are spoon-size ricotta and spinach dumplings. I made a few rounds of gnudi, giving you the most traditional:
1 large bag fresh spinach 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten 1 cup ricotta 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg KS&CP TT (Kosher Salt & Coarse Pepper, To Taste) Semolina for dusting 1/3 cup unsalted butter 4 T chopped sage
Boil water; add spinach for 30 seconds, remove and place in water bath for 30 seconds (water bath: bowl of ice water). Remove and squeeze dry, then roll spinach in paper towel to continue squeezing dry. Roughly chop. Combine spinach, egg yolks, ricotta, cheese, nutmeg, and grinds of salt and pepper to combine. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rest in fridge for a couple of hours.
Flour your hands and use 2 small spoons to ‘cup’ gnudi dough into football-shaped rounds (spoon handles each facing one hand). Roll with semolina (or flour). Place in fridge until ready to cook. For the butter sage sauce: melt the butter in a small saucepan until bubbly, add sage. Let cook 2-3 minutes then off heat. Brush gnocchi with half the sage butter. In a 400 degree oven, bake gnudi on parchment-lined baking sheet for 10-15 minutes. Feel free to broil 2-3 minutes at end to crisp. For service: drizzle with remainder of butter mix (reheat if necessary).
Wine Pairing: this is where ‘personal choice’ comes in. Gnudi may be best served with DaVinci’s Pinot Grigio, but if you already opened a bottle of Chianti by all means: proceed.
Zucchini Flower Risotto
1 cup arborio rice about 6 cups chicken stock (bonus points for homemade) 1/4 cup white wine 1/4 cup shallots, minced 3-4 cloves garlic, minced 2-3 T olive oil (and/or bacon fat) KS&CP TT (Kosher Salt & Coarse Pepper, To Taste) Herbs: 2 tsp dried thyme or Italian Seasoning 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan 3 T butter
Gather all ingredients. Gather all tools and pots you will need (one for stock, one for the risotto, a skillet for the zucchini, a knife and cutting board, wooden spoon, cheese grater, ladle). Place stock in a small pot on stove and heat to a simmer; meanwhile dice shallots, garlic, and zucchini. Grate Parmesan. In large pot, heat oil/fat over medium low; add shallots/garlic/seasoning and cook for 5-8 min. Add arborio and stir to coat for 1-2 minutes. Add the wine (I often toss in a bit of brandy or sherry, too). Let cook a few minutes, then add 1-2 ladles of chicken stock. Let simmer until stock is almost all absorbed, and you can run a spoon along the bottom of pan to create a trail. Add next round of 1-2 ladles. Stir occasionally.
Small note: just after you add the second round of stock, add some oil/butter to a skillet, just hotter than medium to sauté the zucchini. Toss once in awhile, cooking for about 5 minutes. Take off heat.
A third time: add 1-2 ladles to stock, making sure it doesn’t stick to bottom of pan. Stir occasionally. On the fourth addition only add 1 ladle. At this point you are going to start deciding how much more liquid you do/don’t want to put in. Once it is almost completely absorbed, get some grains on your spoon and taste. A little chewy? Perfect. If it is really too chewy, you can add a little stock at a time until you are happy with the texture. At home I like my risotto ‘moundable’ but in Tuscany it has more liquid and slightly spreads on your plate. When risotto is done cooking: off heat, add Parmesan and butter and stir. Adjust seasonings.
Wine Pairing: I like drinking red wine with risotto---I find it cuts through the cream and starch to refresh my palate. A risotto hailing from Tuscany? It begs for Chianti.
Chianti Meat Ragu with Paparedelle
¼ cup olive oil 1 LB beef, trimmed of fat and cut into ¼ inch dice 2 small shallots, minced 2 carrots, minced 1 celery, minced Seasonings: 1 tsp dried thyme, 2 T chopped parsley, KS&CP TT 3 T tomato paste 1 glass Chianti stock (bonus points for homemade) or pasta water (from boiling your Paparedelle)
Heat oil over medium low; add carrots, onion and celery. Add seasonings and sauté for 7-9 minutes. Up heat to just north of medium, add beef and stir occasionally, cooking for 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and stir into mix. Cook 3 min. Pour in Chianti and let simmer 30 minutes. Add stock or pasta water and let simmer another hour. Adjust seasonings, and add stock if need be for desired end consistency.
After you cook the paparedelle pasta (wide ribbon noodles), remove from water and place directly into ragu pan. Off heat and stir to blend. Serve immediately.
Wine Pairing: ragu and pasta? You already know the answer: a hearty glass of DaVinci’s Chianti Riserva. No question.
*this cookbook was produced for DaVinci Wines; they kindly sponsored a trip to Vinci, Italy for 4 Storytellers---I was the 'Culinary Storyteller.' While I was not paid to go on the trip (well in experience "dollars" YES!), DaVinci Wines paid for the trip. Yet as is always the case: all opinions, recipes and insights are my own.