My husband and I are huge fans of the TV show Top Chef. Really, we are fans of a lot of cooking competition shows. Anyway, one of the contestants awhile back is a man from Italy named Fabio Viviani. He started working in Italy at the age of 11 and became a sous chef by the time he was 16. Apparently he's a very ambitious person. He moved to the United States and has opened several restaurants, to include a restaurant called Siena Tavern in Chicago. Siena is a city in Tuscany, Italy, and he comes from Florence, Italy, which is also in the Tuscany region.
Anywho, one of the dishes at that restaurant is a gnocchi dish. It's only called "Gnocchi" on the menu and the description is truffle cream, fried sage, and crispy pancetta. I added Italian sausage to make this a little meatier. And let's talk about truffles for a second. If you know what they are, then you know they are extremely expensive. I can't get them where I live, so I settled on second best. I found a really small jar of truffle cream at a store called Spec's. It's a 2.8 ounce bottle that I paid about $15 for. But, if you've had truffles, you'll know that the flavor is so amazing and indescribable.
Now, I've never been to that restaurant, nor have I been to Chicago. But I thought I'd give my best shot at recreating this gnocchi. I'm calling it Sienese Gnocchi for the region that he came from. And you know what, it was really darn tasty! Enjoy!
Two 9-ounces packages gnocchi
2 T butter
1/2 lb pancetta (or bacon), diced
1 lb Italian sausage, casings removed
2 shallots, chopped
3/4 ounce package fresh sage leaves
1 1/2 C walnut halves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C red wine
2 C heavy cream
1 C shredded Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon truffle cream (optional)
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
Red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Fill a pot with water and bring it to a boil.
Pour about 1/4 C olive oil into a small skillet and heat it to medium high heat. Separate the sage leaves from the stems and fry them in batches for a couple of minutes until they are crisp. Don't walk away from them because they will burn quickly. They will turn dark, almost black. Drain them on a paper towel and set them aside.
Cook the pancetta (or bacon) in a skillet until it's crispy. Drain it on a paper towel. Add in the butter and melt it. Cook the shallots in the butter, stirring frequently, until they are soft. Add in the Italian sausage. Break the sausage up with a wooden spoon. I left mine in bigger chunks so it was almost like tiny meatballs. Cook the sausage until it's done. Deglaze the pan with the wine and scrape up any browned bits. Drop the gnocchi in the boiling water now and cook it according to package directions.
Add the garlic to the sausage and cook and stir abour 30 seconds. Add the walnuts, cream, truffle cream, pancetta (or bacon), and chili flakes to the sausage. Bring it to a slight bubble. Add the Parmesan cheese to the sauce. Crumble the sage leaves into the sauce. Stir the sauce until the cheese is melted. Remove it from the heat. Drain the gnocchi and add it to the sauce along with the parsley.
Adapted from Rachael Ray Magazine