Make us your home page

Donatella Arpaia offers 'naked gnocchi' recipe at food festival

Chefs Aonatella Arpaia, left, Masaharu Morimoto and Scott Conant participate in a discussion at the Mahaffey Theater.


Chefs Aonatella Arpaia, left, Masaharu Morimoto and Scott Conant participate in a discussion at the Mahaffey Theater.

ST. PETERSBURG — She changed out of her cranberry-red shift dress and into crisp chef whites for her 4 p.m. cooking demonstration at the Mahaffey, one of the last events at the Nov. 15-17 food and wine festival called Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete. Donatella Arpaia was one of nearly a dozen celebrity chefs to preside over demos, parties and tastings for the festival. As head judge on both Iron Chef America and Next Iron Chef, her reputation as a forceful and opinionated taskmaster preceded her.

Enlisting the assistance of audience members, she launched into a "naked gnocchi" recipe, not her justifiably famous meatballs because, "I'm not giving away my recipe, no way."

The gnocchi is a great do-ahead first-course recipe for Thanksgiving and all holiday entertaining, she said, because it can be made and frozen, going directly from the freezer to the boiling water and cooking within minutes.

One assistant was promptly sent packing for being too slow on the job of rolling out the ricotta dumpling dough, another swiftly taking his place as Arpaia educated the room.

"What's the trick to making perfect pasta that doesn't stick?" she asked, grimacing when folks yelled out "olive oil."

"No, olive oil in the water makes the sauce not stick to the pasta. The mistake people make is choking the pasta and not giving it room to dance," she explained poetically, adding that what's essential is starting with lots of cold water and lots of salt.

Expertly rolling long snakes of dough between floured hands, she said quality sheep's milk ricotta is important ("this is not a recipe for Polly-O"), as is using the Caciocavallo cheese, available at stores such as Mazzaro's. "This recipe should be done like this or don't do it at all," she intoned.

Because, as she says, "there must always be a reason for a garnish," the gnocchi in this rich, creamy dish are topped with bread crumbs "because I wanted to give a little crunch."

The chef who the New York Post named one of the "most powerful women" in Manhattan demurred about rumors that she's thinking about opening a St. Petersburg restaurant. In keeping with her Iron Chef judging persona, she ended her festival session by focusing on the plate, stressing the simplicity of the dish because she's a proponent of using only "ingredients that count."

Laura Reiley can be reached at or (727) 892-2293. Follow @lreiley on Twitter.


We asked some celebrity chefs at Enjoy Arts and Tastes St. Pete: Tell us something people don't know about you. Here is what they said.

Masaharu Morimoto, star of Iron Chef and Iron Chef America:

"I don't cook anything at home. My wife (since 1979) cooks. (He said he travels so much, he only spends about half the time in his own bed in New York.) And, I don't watch cooking shows. That's my work. When I come home, I just want to relax."

Curtis Stone, host of Top Chef Masters:

"I was a nerdy kid at school, not very studious. And here I am selling products on HSN. Guess it all worked out for the best."

Donatella Arpaia,

head judge on both Iron Chef America and Next Iron Chef:

"I make a brown paper bag lunch for my husband (a heart surgeon) every day. I elevate the sandwich. Even when he just wants a PB & J, I step it up. I use good bread and put peanut butter on both sides and jelly in the middle." (Her assistant said she's a speed demon and loves to go fast in her Lamborghini and on a Jet Ski.)

Scott Conant,

host of 24-Hour Restaurant Battle and a regular judge on Chopped:

"I change my beard length according to the music I'm listening to. I had a full beard when I was listening to Kris Kristofferson but now that I'm into hip-hop, I'm trying to get it to a length so I can trim it to get thicker at the bottom."

Ming Tsai,

of Simply Ming:

"I try to eat only vegetables until dinner. It's not a diet; I just think you don't need that much protein in you." (Oh, and also, "I'm a huge lover of golf.")

Patti Ewald, Times staff writer


Gnudi "Naked Gnocchi"

With Fonduta Di Caciocavallo

For the gnocchi:

2 pounds sheep's milk ricotta

100 grams (a little over

3/4 cup) "double zero" flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 egg yolk

Flour for dusting

For the sauce:

1 ½ quarts Caciocavallo cheese, shredded

1 quart heavy cream

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove

2 to 3 cups beechnut mushrooms

Toasted bread crumbs

Vincotto, for drizzling (Italian cooked wine, available at Italian markets)

Truffle oil, for drizzling

Drain ricotta in cheesecloth for several hours to remove excess water. Put drained ricotta in a stand mixer at medium speed with flour, salt and yolk. Mix until fully incorporated, about 3 or 4 minutes. Be sure no strands of egg yolk remain. Dust a little flour on work surface and dust a little flour on top of dough ball and roll into log. Cut manageable pieces and roll back and forth into ¾-inch-thick worm. Then cut across into 1-inch pillows. Freeze and keep frozen until ready to cook.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the frozen gnocchi; stir gently to prevent them from sticking together. Cook until they rise to the surface, about 3 to 4 minutes.

To make the sauce, combine cheese and cream in a saucepan and melt over very low heat. Once melted, strain and press out with a ladle to remove graininess. In a pan, with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, add crushed garlic clove and then sear beechnut mushrooms. Remove from heat. Drain the olive oil, remove garlic and add cheese sauce and toss in gnocchi and add freshly ground pepper, top with vincotto, a drizzle of truffle oil and sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs.

Serves 8 to 10.

Source: Donatella Arpaia

Donatella Arpaia offers 'naked gnocchi' recipe at food festival 11/19/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 19, 2013 5:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bar review: Les Partners Lounge goes old-school in Clearwater

    Bars & Spirits

    There are some local places that I'm shocked aren't more well known, and I think that's the result of a general aversion to stepping out of one's comfort zone. I make regular concerted efforts to step outside of mine, which often leads me to strange and rewarding drinking establishments.

    Les Partners Lounge is an old-school, smoker-friendly cocktail lounge and live music venue tucked away in a nondescript shopping plaza in Island Estates.
  2. Local craft beer of the week: Plongeur a L'eponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Co.

    Bars & Spirits

    Tarpon Springs' Saint Somewhere Brewing Co. has a somewhat idiosyncratic approach to wild ale brewing, utilizing an open brewing approach involving uncovered fermenters in order to brew beer with local ambient microbes, reminiscent in some ways to the fermentation techniques used by rustic farmhouse breweries in Belgium …

     Plongeur a?€š€™L?ˆš??ponge, Saint Somewhere Brewing Company, 6/23/17  Electric Chair Sour Shandy, Angry Chair Brewing, 6/30/17   Pulp Friction Grapefruit IPA, Motorworks Brewing 7/7/17
  3. ‘80s acts dominate lineup of 2017 Epcot Food and Wine Festival


    Oh, yes. Christmas is coming early this year to ‘80s fans in Florida. Disney’s Epcot Center has announced the lineup to its “Eat to the Beat” concert series that coincides with their annual International Food & Wine Festival.

  4. Equality Florida leader honored at Tampa U2 concert


    TAMPA — Equality Florida director Nadine Smith couldn't attend last week's U2 concert in Tampa, but she can tell you which of her friends had great seats for the June 14 show at Raymond James Stadium.

    Nadine Smith, Equality Florida founder and CEO, received a unique distinction last week when U2 included her in a montage of photos saluting activism and women leaders.
  5. Top things to do in Tampa Bay for June 23


    Leslie Odom Jr.: A solo concert by the Broadway star who won a Tony for his performance as Aaron Burr in Hamilton. 7 p.m., Ferguson Hall at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. $35.50-$55.50. (813) 229-7827.

    Leslie Odom Jr. accepts the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical in "Hamilton"  during the 70th Annual Tony Awards  on June 12, 2016.  (Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions)