The main talking point in Emma Cardarelli’s kitchen at home is a huge electric range from the 1950s. Other cooks might prefer fancy gas models, but the chef at Montreal’s celebrated Nora Gray loves her “monstrosity,” which came with the Mile End triplex she bought last September. You would think someone like Cardarelli wouldn’t have much time to cook at home. After all, the 35-year-old has been busy climbing the ranks since culinary school, including stages in France, long days at a Michelin-starred restaurant in London and even longer ones at Montreal’s Liverpool House. She opened Nora Gray in 2011 with business partners Ryan Gray and Lisa McConnell. Still, Cardarelli continues to make time for the friends she has known since childhood, happily lighting mismatched candles and pulling together Italian-inspired comfort dishes while her pals bring wine, salad and dessert to their Monday-night potlucks. These gnocchi are a cheffed-up version of a dish that she has been cooking for them since they were 14-year-olds in school kilts and cardigans.
2 cups cow’s or goat’s milk ricotta
(store-bought or homemade)
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup semolina
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
3 cups sliced baby portobello mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, thinly slivered
2 zucchini, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white vermouth
2 cups 35 per cent cream (whipping cream)
Mix together ricotta, whole egg and yolks until fully incorporated. Add Parmesan, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Fold in semolina, 1/4 cup at a time. Repeat with flour, taking care not to over-mix. Once dough comes together, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Working on a floured surface, divide dough in half and roll into ropes 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut into 3/4-inch segments, flouring generously to avoid sticking. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Gently drop gnocchi into water in 2 or 3 batches, letting water just return to a rolling boil before lifting gnocchi out with slotted spoon and transferring to baking tray greased with 2 tablespoons oil. Repeat until all gnocchi are cooked. Allow to cool.
Heat remaining oil to medium in a wide-bottomed saucepan. Add mushrooms in batches, waiting until moisture from one batch has evaporated before adding the next. Once all the mushrooms are browned, add garlic and cook for 1 or 2 minutes before adding zucchini. When the zucchini has softened, add vermouth and reduce until the pan becomes almost dry again. Add cream and simmer on low until thickened and reduced by half. Reheat gnocchi in sauce before spooning into bowls and serving with additional grated Parmesan cheese, cracked black pepper and a glass of white wine.