“This dish is inspired by my grandmother,” says Executive Chef Davide Calo. “I would stand on a chair as a small boy and watch her make something very similar.” He’s talking about gnocchi pumpkin, the recipe he will show me how to prepare in his kitchen at Opus.
“It’s a new dish I created just before I went for a holiday to Italy. The thought of going home is always an inspiration, and I often create new dishes before a visit.”
The pumpkin has been cleaned and sliced, put into a baking tray with a little olive oil and cooked in the oven at 140-150 degrees for 40 minutes. After resting it’s made into a coarse paste with parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Davide now gently mixes in 400-grams of flour.
“Gnocchi is usually made with potato, but I use only pumpkin for this recipe,” he says. “I’m looking for a nice consistency, not too much moisture, but also not too dry, otherwise the gnocchi will be hard. The pumpkin is still sticking to my hand, so it needs a bit more flour. It’s very important to feel the ingredients.”
When it’s ready he leaves it to rest for at half an hour. Then he flours the worktop and rolls the gnocchi into a very thin strip and cuts it into small pieces. “Not too big like a trattoria. The gnocchi will expand as it cooks.”
For the cream of spinach sauce Davide puts two knobs of butter into a frying pan on a medium heat and adds finely chopped onions and a little olive oil. Fresh spinach goes in next, having been pre-boiled for a few seconds. Then salt and pepper, before the cream, which bubbles vigorously. A little vegetable stock, and after three minutes it all goes into a blender to make a purée.
The gnocchi is on to boil. “When they start to rise you know they’re ready,” Davide says. “About three minutes.” Butter goes into another frying pan with fresh sage on a low heat. The chef adds a bit of vegetable stock – “So the butter doesn’t brown too much”. Then the gnocchi. “As it sautés,” he says, “the flour comes out and makes the sauce creamier.” Last, he adds parmesan and a bit more stock.
To serve, Davide makes a couple of arty smears on the plate with spinach sauce, and spoons the gnocchi between them, creating an appealing orange-green
combination. He decorates with slivers of parmesan, sage leaves and micro herbs.
The gnocchi has a firm body in the mouth, but is still moist, and there’s a good balance of pumpkin sweet, subtle spinach, salty parmesan and tweaks of sage, all bathed in rich butteriness. The ingredients are separate on the plate, so you can taste them individually or mix them.
It’s luxurious, homey and satisfying, a good example of the Opus menu of traditional Italian cuisine with modern presentation.
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