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An Italian Homecoming

Gnocchi ai Formaggi

Classic Italian food has fallen victim to its own success. In a world where you can buy noodles, sauce and “Parmesan-style” cheese for less than $10, real Italian cooking rarely gets its due. When a cuisine is ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that it can also be transcendent.

Take, for instance, the gnocchi ai formaggi at Ti Amo restaurant in Laguna Beach. At first glance, it’s pretty basic – not “buzz-worthy” in the way that too often defines what’s au courrant in modern food culture. But Ti Amo’s rendition of the recipe is flawless at every turn, from the gnocchi made from scratch to the four-cheese sauce, which coats the supple dumplings without ever being over-rich, or over-dense, or over-anything. There’s no need for molecular gastronomy; this is a classic, reliant on straightforward techniques, executed perfectly.

The deft handling of timeworn recipes is what owner Veronica Scala intended when the restaurant reopened recently after being closed for two years. The new menu marked a return to Ti Amo’s Italian roots. One bite of the kitchen’s gnocchi ai formaggi leaves no doubt: These are roots we should all revisit.

Gnocchi ai Formaggi
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 oz. crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (or blue cheese)
1 oz. Parmesan cheese
1 oz. Romano cheese
1 1/2 oz. mascarpone (or cream cheese)
12 oz. of prepared gnocchi

Heat the heavy cream in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat for 1-2 minutes, until it begins to bubble. Add the Gorgonzola and cook, stirring until it is completely incorporated, about 1 minute. Add the mascarpone cheese and stir. Sprinkle half of the grated Parmesan and Romano cheese, again stirring, until the sauce is thickened. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm. Cook the gnocchi in a large pot of boiling, salted water until they are tender and rise to the surface. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi to the sauce and gently toss to coat. Sprinkle on the remaining Parmesan and Romano cheese and place under a broiler until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Ti Amo - 31727 Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, 949.499.5350 :: tiamolaguna.com

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