Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Potato Trofie with Wild Boar Sausage-Shiitake Ragu


Gnocchi of all shapes and sizes rank high on my list of comforting favorites for any time of year, but in particular the colder months when their decadence really shines. One of my favorite cookbooks from 2015 is Jenn Louis's Pasta by Hand, a culinary journey through Italy, exploring the variety of styles of hand-made pastas in the form of gnocchi/dumplings.


Until recently, I had made 4 of the delectable recipes from her book, including Gnocchi al Sagrantino, Chickpea Gnocchetti, Dunderi, and Ricotta Gnocchetti. I decided to try my hand at a particularly unique spiral-shaped hand made pasta/gnocchi hailing from the Liguria region of Italy: Trofie.


I opted to try the Potato Trofie, although the book also includes a semolina version. The dough was much firmer than that of standard potato gnocchi. This requires more elbow grease and additional time and finesse to roll and shape. I probably spent about 1 1/2 hours or so hand-shaping each and every trofie in this recipe.


Although time-consuming, the process is rewarding. I froze half my trofie (along with half the sauce in individual portion-sized containers) and cooked the other half for immediate consumption. The trofie has an excellent chewy texture, with more of a bite than your standard al dente pasta. I absolutely love it! With its unique characteristics, and firmer/chewier texture than classic melt-in-your-mouth-tender gnocchi, it's definitely worth a try!


I recently also had the privilege to receive and review some delicious products from D'Artagnan including their wild boar sausage. Rather than making pesto, a traditional sauce for Trofie, I decided to use this sausage as the base for my accompanying sauce. Fortified with more umami flavors from re-saturated dried shiitake mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and enhanced with garlic and crushed tomatoes, this wild boar sausage-shiitake ragu is an excellent counterpart to the toothsome trofie.


Each component, from the spiral-shaped trofie to the meaty ragu, works together to yield a seriously comforting hand-made pasta dish that just screams comfort food. As winter trudges along, I can see many more opportunities to indulge in gastronomic satisfaction with the likes of this trofie dish. Lucky for me, I've still got a stash in my freezer! I'll just need to pace myself so I don't eat it all in one week ;-)



Potato Trofie with Wild Boar Sausage-Shiitake Ragu
Serves 6 to 8
(Trofie recipe from Pasta By Hand; ragu recipe is a Mission: Food original)

Potato Trofie:
400 g/14 oz Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes
570 g/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 large eggs
Semolina flour for dusting

Ragu:
6 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in cold water overnight
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
241 g/8 1/2 oz wild boar sausage (or other fresh sausage of your choice), casings removed
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a medium pot, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and cook until the potatoes can be easily pierced with a skewer, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a colander and set aside to cool.

When cool enough to handle, peel the potatoes and rice them into a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Add the all-purpose flour and salt. Mix with your hands or on medium-low speed until roughly combined, about 1 minute. Add 1 of the eggs and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, then add the remaining egg and mix until the dough just comes together. If there is any dry flour remaining at the bottom of the bowl, stop mixing and turn the dough over a few times with your hands to get the dry flour to adhere to the wetter dough mass, then continue mixing. Knead for a total of 5 minutes; the dough should be soft and cohesive, but not wet. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rest at room temperature for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, make the ragu. Remove the re-saturated shiitake mushrooms from the soaking liquid, reserving 1 cup of the liquid to use later. Squeeze the water out of the mushrooms first with your hands and then with a paper towel. Cut off the stems and discard, and then finely dice the caps into 1/4-inch pieces. Set aside.

In a medium pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the wild boar sausage, breaking it up into small pieces with your fingers and then with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through and lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the diced shiitakes and garlic, and continue to saute the mixture for another 3 minutes, or until the shiitakes are beginning to lightly brown.

Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid. Add the crushed tomatoes, then rinse out the can with another 1/2 cup of the mushroom soaking liquid and add it to the pot. Raise the heat back to medium-high and bring the sauce to a simmer. Partially cover the pot with a lid, so steam can still escape, but the sauce does not splatter all over the stove. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until reduced and thickened. You will have about 1 quart of ragu. Set aside.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour (I inadvertently skipped the parchment but was still fine with a light dusting of semolina). Cut off a chunk of dough about the width of two fingers and cover the rest with plastic wrap. On an unfloured surface, use your hands to roll the chunk into a log 1/4 in (6 mm) in diameter. Cut the log into chickpea-size pieces. Working with one piece at a time, using your hands, roll the dough back and forth into a rope about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick and 3 in (7.5 cm) long. Them roll the rope toward yourself, applying pressure with a metal bench scraper held at an angle to the rope; this will give the trofie a spiral shape. Put the trofie on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough (I found it faster to work in small batches by rolling out several small ropes, laying them spaced out apart on my work surface, and then shaping them with the bench scraper rather than rolling and shaping each trofie before moving onto the next one). Make sure that the trofie don't touch or they will stick together.

(To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 says, or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.)

Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Meanwhile in a very large, wide skillet, re-heat the ragu gently. Add the trofie to the boiling water and simmer until al dente, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ragu. Simmer for 1 minute to let the trofie absorb the flavor of the ragu (add 1 to 2 tablespoons of pasta cooking water if needed to loosen up the sauce). Spoon into serving bowls and top with grated cheese, if desired. Serve right away.

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