He would stride confidently into the dining room, his kingdom, all six foot something of him. He was the pulse of Antica Tenuta Le Casacce…….big hair, big smile, big personality. His welcomes were always warm, his attire always quirky, and his enthusiasm always infectious.
Every evening with pride, he would make a booming announcement at dinner before each course. All the diners were served the same thing. There were no menus, buffet or orders. Instead, we all trusted that Enrico would look after us, fill our stomachs beyond belief and leave our palates wanting more. When he appeared in the archway, we would stop shovelling forkfuls of his food into our mouths, put down our wine glasses and cease the chitter chatter to just listen. Animatedly, the Roman chef would describe the course before us, proudly declaring the ingredients were of this land, the Tuscan land he loved. With a flourish of his hand, he would finish with the most important of those ingredients…….
“My olive oil, and my love!”
It was only after I heard of his passing, not long after I had left Italy, that I realised what an instrumental part Enrico Casini had been in the happiness these two weeks away had brought me. From his warm smile to his willingness to tailor my meals to exclude beef, a real feat when it came to Tuscan cuisine, he had made a real impact on our group. Our group was one of the last few to be welcomed to Le Casacce by Enrico. One of the last to share his kitchen with him for a pasta-making class. Probably the very last to tease him about his kooky, colourful spectacles.
It is some reassurance to know that he died in his sleep, a smile on his face. Perhaps it was the same smile he wore when he taught us how to make his favourite sauces, or the cheekier one he sported when he made it a point to assure me there was no beef in the Tiramisu.
After two previous gnocchi disasters, Enrico’s gnocchi recipe gave me my first success. It is cloud-like and delicious cooked in the traditional way, in salted boiling water for a few minutes. I choose instead to pan fry it, not with Enrico’s olive oil but using Spiral Foods’ Rosemary and Garlic oil. The range of ‘Dip ‘n Toss’ oils is a range of delicately infused organic extra virgin olive oils that also includes Sundried Tomato & Basil as well as Garlic & Parmesan. The oil brought a wonderful crispy skin to the pillowy ricotta gnocchi, as well as imparting a herbaceous, subtle flavour. The enoki mushrooms do a great job of soaking up the rosemary and garlic flavours of the oil, but you could use thinly sliced button mushrooms if those are all you have on hand. This is a ricotta gnocchi, and the cheese needs to be drained for at least a few hours, requiring some forward planning.
Pan-Fried Rosemary and Garlic Gnocchi with Enoki Mushrooms
Serves 2. Gnocchi Recipe serves 4 and can be frozen for later use
500g fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese + extra for sprinkling
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
Plain flour (about 1 cup + more for rolling)
Sprinkle of freshly grated pepper
4 tbsp + extra Spiral Foods Organic Rosemary & Garlic Dip ‘n Toss Oil
Generous handful enoki mushrooms, fibrous part of stems cut off
Small handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
To make the gnocchi, the ricotta needs to first be drained. Tie the ricotta up in a clean cheese cloth or thin cotton tea towel and place in a colander. Sit the colander in the top of a deep bowl. Place a weight (I used a tub of rice) on top of the cloth covered ricotta and leave to drain for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Once the ricotta is drained, place it in a large bowl with the egg, parmesan, nutmeg, salt, pepper and 1/2 cup of flour. Before you start kneading, have a large tray or two small ones ready, as well as a hand held sieve/strainer. With clean hands, knead the mixture, combining well and adding more flour until a soft and slightly sticky dough is achieved. I ended up using about 3/4 cup of flour. Transfer the dough onto a clean, floured surface and knead for another minute or so. Have a small pile of flour on one corner of the bench. Pinch off golf ball sized parts of the dough and roll into logs about 1 to 1.5 cm thick. Cut into 1cm wide pieces and add these to the pile of flour. When you have made all the gnocchi, toss them well in the flour. I found this easier to do in small batches. Sieve the gnocchi to get rid of any excess flour. Place on trays in a single layer to dry for an hour or so, then place any gnocchi that you are not intending to use immediately in an airtight container and in the freezer.
You will need about 2 cups of the gnocchi to serve 2 people.
In a large non-stick fry pan, heat 4 tbsp Spiral Foods Rosemary and Garlic Oil. Add 2 cups of the gnocchi and fry on medium heat, turning the gnocchi over every couple of minutes so that it is evenly browned. Toss in the mushrooms and a generous sprinkle of salt and cover. Cook on low heat for a further 1-2 mins until the mushrooms are tender. Toss through before serving.
Serve with freshly grated parmesan and finely chopped fresh parsley, as well as a generous drizzle of the oil.
**Disclosure: The Dip ‘n’ Toss oils were product samples provided by Spiral Foods, however this is not a sponsored post. Opinions are my own.