“When you cook in a restaurant, it’s like you’re having a party every night. That’s why I fell in love with the whole thing,” says Daniel Costa, chef-owner of Edmonton’s Corso32, where it can take six weeks to score a dinner reservation. But the simple Italian cooking Costa is now known for wasn’t always his passion.
“When I was in culinary school, I was making extremely complicated dishes and rebelling against my Italian heritage,” says the 29-year-old, who changed his attitude during a long trip through southern Italy.
“I learned to make orecchiette and cavatelli with two nonnas at about seven one morning. I’d had a lot of Fernet Branca the night before and my head was hurting. I’d knead the dough again and again, but the nonnas would come and touch it and say it wasn’t kneaded enough.”
Eventually, he got it right and the lesson stuck; handmade pastas feature prominently on his menu at Corso32 and in his home kitchen. These fried gnocchi with black kale and pangrattato (a toasted bread-crumb mixture) is a favourite that Costa likes to whip up for the boys after a late night on the town. It might even help stave off a day-after headache.
1 lb fresh ricotta
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup finely grated pecorino Romano cheese
1 tsp fresh nutmeg
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, divided
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
5 to 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 whole cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 cup day-old bread ripped into very fine pieces
1 bunch (about 1/2 lb) black kale, stemmed and cut into large pieces
1 lemon, zested and juiced
For the gnocchi, mix ricotta, egg, yolk, 1/2 cup pecorino, nutmeg and 1 tsp salt until well combined. Mix in flour. Place dough on a floured work surface and knead for about 45 seconds to ensure ingredients are combined. Cover the dough with a large bowl or damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll each piece into 1/2-inch-thick rope on a floured work surface. Cut each cylinder into ½-inch pieces. (If desired, roll each piece on a gnocchi board to give it a dimpled and indented texture.) Bring a large saucepan of salted boiling water to a boil. Gently add gnocchi and cook for one minute after the gnocchi float to the water’s surface. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi to an ice bath allow them to cool for 5 minutes. Remove the gnocchi from the ice and set aside. Reserve the cooking water.
To make the pangrattato, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium-high. Add 1 garlic clove and fry until garlic begins to turn golden, then discard garlic. Add the bread crumbs and remaining salt to the pan and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring, until bread becomes golden, adding up to 1 tbsp more oil as needed. Transfer pangrattato to a plate and set aside.
Bring the water the gnocchi were cooked in back up to a boil and add kale, cooking until tender (about 2 minutes). Remove gnocchi to an ice bath with a slotted spoon. Heat remaining olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining garlic clove, fry until golden and discard garlic. Add gnocchi to pan and shake gently to distribute. Fry, stirring occasionally, for 4 minutes or until the gnocchi turn golden, then toss and fry another minute. Remove the kale from the ice bath, blot with paper towels to remove excess moisture and add to pan with the gnocchi, frying for 2 minutes or until kale becomes slightly crisp. Transfer everything to a serving dish and add lemon zest, half the pangrattato and remaining pecorino. Toss to incorporate. Add lemon juice to taste and top with remaining pangrattato.