Sweet ingredients often work surprisingly well in a savoury dish. When I was recently holidaying in the Friuli region of Italy, I found some delightful recipes in a book that brought together traditional recipes from the Carnia, the alpine corner of north east Italy. There were recipes which had combinations of spices like cinnamon and cloves and dried fruit such as figs, sultanas and prunes in savoury food, which I found fascinating as we don’t generally think of these ingredients as being italian.
Regular readers of my blog will know of my love affair with gnocchi having posted about beetroot gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi and eggplant gnocchi. So when I found a recipe for Gnocs di Cerzuvint (in Friulano, meaning Gnocchi of Cercivento, a tiny town in Carnia) that use both dried fruit and spices in the gnocchi recipe, I copied it down to try it at home.
Potatoes and plums/prunes are eaten together all over this part of Italy, even in parts of nearby Austria and Hungary, and are generally made into dumplings, often coated with breadcrumbs and cinnamon. This recipe is fairly traditional though the cinnamon is incorporated in the potato dough and breadcrumbs are omitted. The result is a soft ball of savoury potato goodness with a hint of cinnamon with a luscious sweet surprise in the centre. Sage burnt butter is perfect with these gnocchi, and I would suggest a glass of Sangiovese wine would be ideal if you served these for entree (4 or 5 gnocchi per person) or as a main (Mark ate 10 of them when I made them today). Scatter salty parmigiano on top and you have the perfect mix of sweetness and saltiness. Buon appetito!
Gnocchi with prunes
Makes 20 gnocchi
150g 00 flour
2 small eggs, lightly beaten
a large pinch of powdered cinnamon
20 moist prunes, stone removed
75g unsalted butter
50g grated parmigiano cheese
6 sage leaves
salt to taste
Cook the potatoes whole in water until they are soft (I used Desiree potatoes) – 30 minutes or more depending on the size of the potato. Test them with a fork and remove when the fork pierces the potato easily. Peel the potatoes and mash them with a potato ricer (if you have one – or else use a potato masher though it is important that they are smooth with no lumps) whilst they are still warm.
Allow the potatoes to cool completely before mixing in the flour, cinnamon and eggs until you have a homogeneous dough. Put a small amount of dough (size of a small egg) in your hand and roll into a ball. Open the ball of dough and insert a prune and close again, rolling in a bit of extra flour if needed. The prune should be completely covered by a thin – medium layer of the potato mixture. Set aside.
Boil a large pot of water and salt as needed. Place the gnocchi in the boiling water, about 10 at a time (depending on the size of your saucepan – don’t over-crowd the saucepan) and cook for about 4 minutes. Remove from the saucepan with a large slotted spoon and place on serving plates. Spoon over the sage burnt butter (see below) and top with grated parmigiano. You can also place the gnocchi in the pan with the burnt butter and toss them for a few minutes if you like the outer layer of the gnocchi a bit crisp and drenched in butter – it is nice either way. Scatter with parmigiano before serving.
For the sage butter: heat the butter in a frypan and when it has melted, add the sage leaves. The butter will froth up after a few minutes, turn brown and the sage leaves will become crispy.