Before I talk about today’s recipe, I would like to say a few words to honor Silva Rigobello, who has suddenly passed away this weekend. You can imagine this came as quite a shock after the recent passing of Richard. Even though I’ve never met Silva in real life, we exchanged comments on our recipe posts on a daily basis and I’ve prepared and blogged about many of her recipes. We were in fact planning to meet during my recent trip to Italy, but it didn’t work out. We both thought there would be another time… From her blog it is obvious that Silva was a grand lady with a lot of style and class, and an expert cook with a wealth of knowledge that she loved to share. I’ll miss her terribly.
Today’s recipe was inspired by a dish we had at Pretzhof in South Tyrol (Alto Adige) during our last vacation. It is not an attempt to prepare the same dish, but it is quite similar and turned out as delicious as I remember the dish at Pretzhof to be. There are two components to the dish: a venison ragù and gnocchetti (dumplings very similar to ‘gnudi’) made from ricotta and greens. The ragù has some bite and color from a brunoise of the ‘holy trinity’ (carrot, onion, and celery), is creamy and has just a hint of tomato.
The venison is not ground but chopped and then cooked over very low heat until it is very tender. The gnocchetti are made using a very handy trick that I learned from Marina, my Italian blogging friend who I did get to meet during my recent trip to Italy. I should have used slightly more flour in the dough to give the dumplings a stronger texture, which I have corrected in the amounts below. The greens could also have been chopped more finely. But otherwise, this turned out absolutely delicious and one of the better tasting dishes I have tried lately. There is a bit of work in this dish, but it is absolutely worth it.
For 2 servings
For the venison ragù
250 grams (.55 lb) venison shoulder (or another flavorful cut of venison, suitable for stewing)
45 grams (1/3 cup) carrot, cut in brunoise
45 grams (1/3 cup) onion, cut in brunoise
45 grams (1/3 cup) celery, cut in brunoise
125 ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine
125 ml (1/2 cup) light cream (or half and half)
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp double-concentrated tomato paste (or 2 Tbsp regular tomato paste)
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the gnocchetti
75 grams (3 oz) mixed greens
50 grams (1/3 cup) flour
1/8 tsp salt
40 grams (1.4 oz) freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
125 grams (1/2 cup) ricotta
1 Tbsp butter
Chop the venison into pieces a bit smaller than 1 cm (1/3 inch).
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan. Add 45 grams carrot brunoise, 45 grams celery brunoise, and 45 grams onion brunoise, and season with salt. Stir over medium high heat for a couple of minutes. [Brunoise is a French way of saying small dice. If you want to be really French about it, you can specify the size of the dice in millimeters. My brunoise is probably a bit large at about 5 mm (1/5 inch).]
Add the chopped venison, and stir over medium high heat…
…until the venison is browned on all sides and starts to sizzle, about 3 minutes.
Add a tablespoon of double-concentrated tomato paste to 125 ml (1/2 cup) of dry white wine, and stir to mix. Add this mixture to the venison.
Stir and scrape with a wooden spatula to get all the browned bits that have stuck to the pan into the sauce.
Add a few fresh thyme sprigs and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring the wine to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Cover and cook over low heat until the veal is tender, stirring now and then.
In my case the veal was tender after an hour, but this could take longer. If the ragù becomes too dry, add some hot water.
Discard the thyme sprigs.
Add 125 ml (1/2 cup) of light cream.
Stir to incorporate the cream, and keep warm over low heat.
Make the gnocchetti while the venison is stewing. Wash and dry the greens (if necessary). Melt a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan and add 75 grams (3 oz) of greens.
Stir until the greens have wilted.
Chop the greens (more finely than I did).
Beat an egg in a large bowl.
Add 125 grams (1/2 cup) of ricotta, the chopped greens, and 40 grams (1.4 oz) of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano.
Stir until the mixture is homogeneous.
Add 1/8 tsp of salt…
…and 50 grams (1/3 cup) flour.
Stir until the mixture is homogeneous.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Here comes the trick I learned from Marina: make a tight rope of kitchen twine from one handle of the pot to the other.
Transfer the ricotta mixture to a piping bag. Cut the tip off the piping bag such that the opening has a diameter of about 5 millimeters (1/5 inch).
Wait with making the gnocchetti until the venison ragù is done. When the water boils, reduce the heat so that the water will boil gently.
Squeeze a generous centimetre (1/2 inch) out of the piping bag…
…and use the rope to cut it off, so that it will fall into the water. Repeat this until you have used up all of the dough.
While you are piping the dumplings, keep an eye on when they float. As soon as they do, transfer any floating dumplings to the ragù using a strainer.
When you have piped, cooked, and transferred all of the gnocchetti to the ragu, stir gently to mix. As I should have used more flour (I had used only 35 grams instead of 50), my gnocchetti almost fell apart.
Serve at once on preheated plates. You could sprinkle some freshly grated parmigiano on top if you like, but I didn’t think it necessary.
This is great with an oaked pinot noir, preferably from the region of Alto Adige (where it is called pinot nero or Spätburgunder).
Usually my food is pretty traditional (even when I use a modern technique such as sous-vide to prepare it), but sometimes I like to experiment with modernist recipes. Like this lovely herring ceviche with cucumber foam.