Ever since I started eating gluten-free, there have been a few comfort foods that I have been craving, and haven’t yet found a substitute for: stuffed pasta, dumplings, calzones, spring rolls, gnocchi, tiramisu, malt vinegar, Maltesers, and beer.
The other day, Mr. KitchenOperas and I went for an afternoon stroll in the neighbourhood. And we ended up at our favourite local food shop: La Salumeria (2021 Yonge Street, Toronto), a fantastic grocery/deli with a vast selection of cheeses, oils & other condiments, meats, cheeses, chocolates, and other tasty delights. One of their pasta shelves was full of gluten-free brands, and so when Mr. KitchenOperas pointed out the gluten-free gnocchi, I had to pick some up!
I have great plans to make my own gluten-free gnocchi, but these were right there, and we needed something for dinner. So home they came with us!
I thought we’d try out the rice gnocchi first (we have a pack of corn gnocchi waiting for us in the pantry), and it worked well in this recipe. Traditionally, gnocchi can be boiled or pan-fried — or a combination of the two. So I slightly-under-boiled the gnocchi, then pan-fried them in brown sage butter, and tossed them with sautéed Cremini mushrooms, spinach and garlic.
To top the gnocchi off, I knew I wanted an Italian cheese. I’ve been trying many more cheeses lately as I’m taking courses towards a fromager certificate (as a sommelier is a wine expert, a fromager is a cheese expert). As a part of the course I’m taking right now, “Intro to Cheese”, we have cheese homework — so I had the perfect choice in the fridge to go with this gnocchi — Montasio cheese.
Montasio is a cow’s milk cheese from the northeast corner of Italy (in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the home of grappa), in the foothills of the Alps. The cheese is an Alpine-style cheese that was originally made by Benedictine monks in the 13th century. It was originally made using sheep’s milk, but is now made from cow’s milk. I got the Montasio mezzano variety, which is aged for 5-12 months, and has a thin and hard brown rind, with a firm and slightly crumbly straw-coloured paste (the inside part of the cheese that’s not the rind is called the paste). The cheese has a very concentrated and moreish set of flavours: grilled bread, dried mushrooms, hay, sour milk, smoke, and radicchio. Montasio is often used to make an Italian delicacy: Frico — fried cheese!
It was a great cheese on top of the gnocchi, and I’ll use it on other pastas in the future. It melted just a little bit from the heat of the gnocchi, and all the savoury/bitter/salty flavours of the cheese went well with the earthy flavours in the gnocchi. If you can’t find Montasio, you could also use Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Pecorino.
Voilà — gluten-free gnocchi that tastes just as good as it’s gluten-y counterpart!
Gluten-Free Gnocchi with Sage Butter & Montasio Cheese
This gnocchi is a rich & luxurious treat for a cold night. The savoury flavours from the Cremini mushrooms and the Montasio cheese make it earthy and satisfying. If you can’t find Montasio, try Asiago, Parmigiano Reggiano, or Pecorino to top the gnocchi. Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish.
- 1 package (500g, 18oz) gluten-free gnocchi
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled & minced
- 1 cup (72g, 2.5oz) Cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1 cup (225 g, 8oz) fresh baby spinach
- 3 Tablespoons (42g, 1.5oz) salted butter
- 1/3 cup (18g, 0.66 oz) fresh sage leaves
- 28 g (1 oz) Montasio cheese, thinly sliced
- cracked black pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
While boiling the water, prepare the mushrooms: Pour the olive oil into a large pan, and add the minced garlic. Sweat the garlic over low heat for 2 minutes, or until it becomes lightly golden and becomes fragrant. Bring the heat up to medium-high and add the sliced mushrooms. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender and browned. Add the spinach, and stir to combine until the spinach has just wilted. Transfer the mushroom-spinach mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Once your water has come to a boil, dump in the gnocchi. Watch them carefully at this point — and take them out of the hot water once they begin to float.
Wipe out your pan with a paper towel and add the butter. Melt the butter over low heat. Turn the heat up to medium, add the sage leaves, and continue to cook the butter until it’s foamy, about 3-4 minutes. The butter will brown and the sage leaves will crisp up. Add the cooked & drained gnocchi and pan-fry over medium heat until golden brown.
Add the mushroom-spinach mixture, and mix with a heat-resistant spatula or wooden spoon to combine everything.
Plate on one big family-style platter, or on individual dishes. Top with the thin slices of Montasio cheese and a few turns of cracked black pepper. Enjoy warm!