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Apr 14, 2015
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WINE WITH…Gnocchi with Truffle Cheese Sauce


When you’re talking about favorite comfort foods, gnocchi has to be somewhere near the top of the list. We love these little potato-based Italian dumplings with simple tomato sauce, or classic brown butter and sage. We sometimes make a sauce with a cupful or so of cooked spinach whizzed in the blender with garlic, olive oil, a little chicken stock and perhaps a splash of cream, gently reheated and poured over the gnocchi. And gnocchi with Gorgonzola is such an irresistibly classic Italian dish that when we recently were bequeathed a chunk of truffle cheese it occurred to us that it, too, might lend itself to saucing gnocchi.

Truffle cheese has become fairly easy to find. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Wegmans and a host of other food purveyors carry truffle cheese from a variety of producers.  The one we used, from the French brand Fromagerie Guilloteau, is a creamy cheese laced with flecks of truffle from the Périgord region, and is fairly mild in flavor.

This is a very rich dish. Serve it as an appetizer or main course. If you want to accompany the gnocchi with a side dish, keep it simple: steamed sugar snap peas or green beans, sliced fresh tomatoes drizzled with balsamic, or a plain green salad.

Gnocchi with Truffle Cheese Sauce

Serves 4-6

5 ounces truffle cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/3 cup half and half or heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
Cooked gnocchi, homemade or commercial brand
Shredded Parmesan to pass at the table (optional)

Cut the truffle cheese into 5 or 6 chunks and reserve. Melt the butter in a sturdy saucepan. When it is foaming, stir in the flour and continue stirring until it is thoroughly blended in. Whisk in the milk, and simmer, stirring constantly, until the sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cream then add the chunks of truffle cheese. Season with salt and pepper, and as soon as the cheese has melted, spoon the sauce over the gnocchi and serve immediately, passing the parmesan cheese at the table if desired.

* * *

Precisely because this is a rich dish, you need a substantial wine to serve alongside it. Both reds and whites can do the trick, but we found that wines with a different personality clashed with the gnocchi. You might think that vibrant acidity in a wine would provide a tasty contrast to the cheesy, creamy sauce, but it fact it won’t. Instead, the wine will taste shrill. So when looking for a wine partner, focus on ones with a smooth texture and lush flavors. A hint of earthiness can be an added bonus as well.

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Selection

Approx. Price

Comments

Byron, Santa Maria Valley (California) Pinot Noir 2012

$29

Ripe but not excessively sweet, this California Pinot tastes of red cherries with a vanilla-tinged undertone from oak aging. It more than held its own in the pairing.

Cougar Crest, Walla Walla Valley (Washington) Viognier 2013

$20

Marked by peachy summer fruit flavors and a distinctively floral note in the bouquet, this Viognier is full of enticing charm. It’s rich but not heavy or clunky, and meshed seamlessly with the gnocchi.

De Wetshof, Robertson (South Africa) Chardonnay “Lesca” 2013

(Imported by Broadbent Selections)

$23

The richness here comes more from fruit than oak, but the wine tastes seductive, with a silky texture and a long finish that did not get at all undercut by the cheesy sauce.

J. Lohr, Paso Robles (California) Mourvèdre “Gesture” 2012

$30

Wonderfully balanced, with an earthy note lurking beneath the plum-like fruit, this is a deep and satisfying red, without astringent tannin or too much alcohol. It added a slightly rustic element to the pairing.

Cerulli Spinozzi. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo Colline Teramane (Italy) “Torre Migliori” 2010

(Imported by VB Imports)

$22

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo can be a simple, one note wine, but this rendition is enticingly complex, with vivid fruit flavors, hints of spice and smoke, and a substantial finish. At the end of the meal, there was less of it left in the bottle than was the case with any of the other wines we tasted.