White Truffle Gnocchi Gratinate
Written by Dana Reale
In the summer of 2012, I was accepted into a study abroad program in Italy through Johnson & Wales University. I studied at the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence through their Culinary Arts program. The program started in Florence for four weeks and then in Sicily for ten days.
I spent all my free time exploring hidden restaurants off alleys where there was no English translation on the menus. Inside tip–those are better than any of the spots near tourist locations. My classmates and I would wander around searching for Florentine steaks, pasta, and pizza. Wherever we went, we always left full and happy.
But there is one dish that I still dream about almost ten years later: the white truffle gnocchi gratinate from Osteria Santo Spirito in Florence. Imagine light and tender potato gnocchi bathed in a heavenly, silky, white truffle cream sauce. It always came out bubbling after being under the broiler for a few minutes. The smell that wafted up as it was placed in front of me is still something I long for, the white truffles are burned into my memory.
At this Osteria, the plates were mismatched in classic Italian floral patterns and chipped on the sides, only adding to the charm of the small restaurant. The chef ran the kitchen like a well-oiled machine, and from the looks of it, she was the only cook as well as doing the expo all on her own.
I returned two more times to eat this dish because I could not get enough of it. I have never tasted gnocchi quite like it and have not been able to replicate it exactly at home – although this recipe comes close! Perhaps it was being twenty-one in Italy, with a newfound sense of freedom, immersing myself in a culture I longed to be a part of, that is so nostalgic for me. Maybe it was finally eating pasta in Italy while finding a connection to my heritage. Whatever it was, it remains one of my fondest food memories, and I hope when I return to Italy, Osteria Santo Spirito remains, with the same gnocchi and the same chipped plate.
It is hard to find white truffles in the states, and they are very expensive if you do. I suggest buying high-quality white truffle oil for this dish.
Gnocchi takes practice to make, but once you have made it a few times you’ll get the hang of the dough and rolling technique.
White Truffle Gnocchi Gratinate
Prep time: 75 Minutes
Cook time: 15 Minutes
For the gnocchi:
2 pounds russet potatoes
2 cups 00 flour, plus more as needed
1 egg, whisked
Pinch of salt
For the white truffle sauce:
7¼ tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons butter
4 cups whole milk
1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for topping
2 cloves garlic, skin removed
Salt and pepper to taste
White truffle oil
To prepare the gnocchi:
Preheat oven to 350°F, pierce potatoes with a fork, and roast for 45 minutes or until tender. Let cool until they are easy to handle but still warm.
Cut potatoes length-wise. Scoop flesh out and pass potatoes through a potato ricer, spread out on a cutting board to dry and cool slightly. Sprinkle flour and a pinch of salt over potatoes. Pour the whisked egg on top.
Quickly and gently fold the flour into the potatoes until a dough forms, add more flour if you find the dough too sticky. Do not over mix, or the gnocchi will become gummy and chewy.
Separate dough into quarters so that it is easier to roll. Roll each piece into a 1-inch-thick rope. Cut dough into little one-inch squares.
Lightly flour a gnocchi board. Place one square over the ridges and using your thumb or index finger, gently press down and away from you to the end of the board so that gnocchi has ridges on one side, and an indent on the other side from your finger.
To prepare the sauce:
Make a roux. Melt butter in a saucepan on medium heat. Whisk in flour.
Continue cooking and stirring until the raw flour dissolves into the butter, forming a thick paste, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the roux.
Slowing whisk the milk in, one cup at a time, until all the roux is thoroughly mixed in with the milk. Add the garlic cloves.
Continue to cook until the milk simmers, about 10 minutes, whisking continuously so that there are no lumps and the milk does not scorch. Remove garlic cloves and discard.
Remove pan from heat and whisk in parmesan cheese. Add truffle oil, one tablespoon at a time, to your desired taste. A little goes a long way. Season with salt and pepper.
To assemble the dish:
Boil the gnocchi lightly salted water until the gnocchi float to the surface, about 4-6 minutes. Drain.
Combine cooked gnocchi and sauce in a glass or metal baking pan, or in four individual ramekins if you prefer.
Cover the top with a layer of parmesan cheese and broil for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned on top and bubbling.
Dana Reale is currently the Sous Chef at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. While studying abroad in Florence, Dana fell in love with the Italian culture and all things pasta. She spends her spare time testing out new pasta shapes and recipes on family and friends, which makes her feel connected to her Sicilian heritage. Follow her on @nogginfullofnoodles, for her pasta creations and favorite things to eat.