The sweet taste of chestnuts is as much a part of autumn as fresh mushrooms. Fried with luganega, a sausage specialty from northern Italy, they give the potato-chestnut gnocchi the right kick. A dish for lovers of hearty Italian cuisine.
From Trentino-Alto Adige to Piedmont and Tuscany, chestnut festivals take place in autumn. The noble fruit, which was formerly considered the “poor man's bread”, is an integral part of the regional cuisine. It can be found in desserts, baked dishes, pasta, soups, liqueurs and even in gnocchi. The more chestnut flour is in the gnocchi, the more intense it tastes. Then, it is best to serve the gnocchi with a more neutral sauce, such as sage butter. The rule is: the more subtle the gnocchi tastes, the heartier the sauce may be. Gnocchi with freshly cooked chestnuts are a little more complicated to cook, but are incredibly tasty.
Salsiccia, lucanica or luganega
In Italian, raw sausage is referred to as salsiccia, lucanica or luganega. Although these terms are used synonymously today, historically they do not mean the same thing. Cicero, for example, reported an exceptionally good salsiccia, a meat (ciccia) mixed with salt (sale) that slaves from Tuscany had prepared for him. The salsicce from Lucania in Basilicata, the lucanica, were particularly popular in Roman times. Roman soldiers brought the recipe with them to the capital. Both types of sausage were made from pork. The luganega is different as this specialty from Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige also contains horse, sheep or goat meat.
Chestnut Gnocchi with mushrooms and luganega
For the gnocchi
- 300 g potatoes, not new potatoes, boiled and peeled
- 60 g potato starch
- 40 g chestnut flour
- 2 small eggs yolks
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch nutmeg, optional
For the sauce
- 200 g fresh, mixed mushrooms (e. g. porcini, parasol, king oyster, chanterelle)
- 100 g sausage, coarse raw sausage
- 1 teaspoon olive oil, extra virgin
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 2 leaves sage, fresh
- 100 g cheese , grana or Parmesan
- For the gnocchi, mash the still hot potatoes on a large wooden chopping board. Add a little salt and allow to cool. Mix the chestnut flour and potato starch and knead into the mashed potatoes with the egg yolk. Season the dough with salt and nutmeg.
- Divide the dough into 4 portions and roll each into long finger-thick sticks. Cut into 2 cm thick gnocchi with a knife. You can roll the gnocchi on a rigagnocchi (gnocchi board) or over a fork to create the ridges. The gnocchi can better absorb the sauce when they have grooves.
- In a large pot, bring water to the boil, add salt. In the meantime, fry the sausage in a little oil. Add the cleaned, sliced mushrooms and fry for a few minutes until cooked. Be careful, though, if you fry mushrooms for too long, they can become rubbery.
- Let the gnocchi simmer in the boiling water. As soon as they float to the surface, lift them out with a slotted spoon and add them to the pan with the sauce. Add sage leaves and mix the gnocchi again thoroughly in the hot pan/sauce. If the gnocchi seem too dry, ladle in a little cooking water. Season with pepper and salt, if desired, and serve with grated grana or Parmesan cheese.