Friday, January 25, 2013

RECIPE: Feeling Bleu -- Salsa di Gorgonzola

When the weather outside is frigid, as it's been in New York and in many places around the globe in recent weeks, we crave comfort food. Foods that are rich, packed with flavor, and remind us of home tend to fit the bill when all we want is to curl up on the sofa with a movie, a blanket, and a plateful of "yum." One of my go-to dishes in cold weather reminds me of long dinners in cozy trattorie in Florence when I was a student there. For 8,000 lire, or about $4, we could order a large plate of gnocchi al gorgonzola, potato dumplings bathed in a creamy, pungent sauce topped with parmigiano, and it was heaven. Sometimes my Florentine "mamma," Cristina, prepared the dish at home. And now, when I crave the comfort of my home-away-from-home in winter months, this is one of a handful of dishes that I make to bring me back to bell'Italia.

I've been a fan of strong, stinky cheeses since I was a young girl, precociously ordering blue cheese dressing at every restaurant my parents took me to at the age of 7. Waiters did double-takes. As a teenager, I developed a deep love for well-prepared buffalo wings, particularly those from Chuck's in Princeton -- and the extra blue cheese dressing I'd use for dunking the wings and celery sticks was half the reason for eating the wings in the first place. So when I discovered gnocchi al gorgonzola as a 20 year-old student in Florence, of course I flipped. My love for this dish has not waned over the years, though I know it's not something in which I can indulge too frequently. It's not exactly diet food. But sometimes, indulge we must. Weather that stings your face when you step outside qualifies as motive enough.

Note that this sauce is classically paired with gnocchi, which are best when homemade and ethereally light and airy, though you can also toss a short pasta with the sauce, like a penne or rigatoni. You can use conchiglie, or shells, and even bake this topped with bread crumbs and parmigiano for a rich, Italian, adult version of mac-and-cheese. And keep in mind the classic Italian pairings that work well with gorgonzola: pear, radicchio, prosciutto, and pancetta.
You can toss cooked pancetta or strips of prosciutto in with the pasta. You can add the sauce to a cooking risotto and finish it with chopped radicchio. You can grill some radicchio and pour the sauce on top for a great winter antipasto. And you can toss pear slices in with the gnocchi, pasta, or risotto. Or use the sauce for a pizza in bianco, topped with pear slices and cooked in a pizza oven...and finish with some sliced radicchio and prosciutto. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.


Makes about 2 cups


6 oz. gorgonzola cheese
2 cups heavy cream

4 TBSP. unsalted butter

Salt & pepper to taste
Chopped parsley, chives, or basil

- In a sauce pot, on medium heat, warm the gorgonzola cheese together with the heavy cream.

- Cook 4-5 minutes on medium heat,  until the cheese softens and melts into the cream a bit.

- Using a whisk, gently stir the mixture together so the chunks of cheese melt down and the sauce is relatively smooth.

- Add the butter and whisk gently to incorporate it into the sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, over low heat, to blend the flavors. Add salt and pepper to taste.

- Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add chopped parsley, chives, or basil if you like.