When it comes to gnocchi, the Italian potato dumplings, it is one of those classic dishes that comes in almost unlimited variations. A favourite over here is this easy polenta gnocchi recipe with chorizo and sage butter. Paired with a refreshing Lugana from Lake Garda, it’s the perfect weeknight dish.
Though the huge variety of Italian pasta dishes means you might still discover new flavour combinations, in general pasta needs no introduction. It’s legitimately the most popular food around the world.
The story slightly changes when it comes to Italian wines. The country of course stands for some of the most famous wines in the world (hello Chianti Classico, Brunello, and Barolo), yet with a vast variety of grapes grown across many different areas in any part of Italy, there are many local wines fairly unknown internationally worth being explored.
A favourite here is the unique white Lugana wine which comes from a tiny area close to Lake Garda. Crisp, refreshing and versatile with food, it’s a wine I love to sip during the warm summer months.
An introduction to Lugana wine from Italy
If you have ever been to Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake in the north of the country not far from Verona and straddling the two regions of Veneto and Lombardy, you might be already familiar with white Lugana wine.
Perhaps Italy’s latest best kept wine secret, Lugana comes from a small wine growing area located on the southern shores of Lake Garda with the same name, Lugana. The small DOC area, that produces only white wines, spans the historic towns of Desenzano sul Garda, Peschiera and Sirmione, among the most popular among visitors from around the world that come to Lake Garda.
Lugana is made from the Turbiana grape, which until about 20 years ago, was called Trebbiano di Lugana much to the dislike of local winemakers since the wine has nothing in common with the widely planted white Trebbiano grape that produces nice yet relatively unspectacular white wines.
More recent research on the Trebbiano di Lugana variety proofed that, while Turbiana is a close relative of another variety, the Verdiccio grape, which origins in Italy’s Marche region, Turbiana has different aromatic characteristics and is very much a variety of its own.
Turbiana is a late-ripening grape which yields less than other grape varieties, adding to the quality of the wine. Whilst up to 10% of other white non-aromatic varietals are officially allowed to be added according to denomination rules, most Lugana wines are made from 100% Trubiana.
Lugana wines are typically crisp and floral, with flavours of juicy citrus, white stone fruit and almond. They are high in acid and rich in texture, which is the result of a longer skin contact then usual during fermentation.
Mostly a wine that is drunken young, Lugana still has some again potential. Lugana DOC wines can age for about 2-3 years in the bottle while Superiore and Riserva can age for several more years.
The variety is also highly versatile when it comes to food. It pairs exceptionally well with seafood pasta, fish, vegetable dishes and is also a good match to a wide range of Asian dishes.
Recipe: Polenta Gnocchi with Chorizo
Polenta, the creamy porridge made from coarsely ground cornmeal, is a popular dish in northern Italy and used in a variety of styles. Once ready cooked, it is often further processed and either baked, fried, or grilled.
Check out my recent post Black Polenta Crostini for some background on polenta (and try making the crostini, they are amazing!).
This gnocchi recipe uses polenta instead of potatoes which gives the gnocchi a whole new texture.
200 g polenta semolina
3 egg yolks
150 g freshly ground parmesan
200 g Chorizo
125 g butter
16-20 sage leaves
salt, pepper and ground nutmeg for seasoning
In a large saucepan, bring 800 ml water seasoned with salt, pepper and ground nutmeg to boil.
Whisk in the polenta, reduce the heat to a minimum and cover with a lid briefly, until the polenta stopes bubbling. Continue to cook the polenta for about 30 minutes until it becomes soft and tender. Keep stirring frequently, every 4-5 minutes.
Take from heat and stir in the egg yolks and 75 g of the parmesan.
Let briefly cool, then stamp small pieces from the polenta using a teaspoon and with lightly floured fingers form them into little dumplings.
In a large saucepan, bring salted water to a boil then reduce the heat. Add the polenta gnocchi and let simmer for about 8-10 minutes (they will float to the surface as soon as they are ready cooked).
In the meantime, cut Chorizo into thin pieces.
Heat butter in a large skillet until it starts to sizzle. Add Chorizo and sage leaves, fry for about one minute.
Add the polenta gnocchi and toss around carefully until they have taken on a light brown-golden colour.
Divide between four plates and top with the Chorizo-sage butter and the remaining ground parmesan.