A savory strudel from Trieste, almost an Italian hot savory pudding.
A potato gnocchi-dough roll filled with spinach and ricotta, boiled, sliced, showered with Parmigiano and baked. Comfort food. It looks impressive but it is not that difficult to make. It is a dish firmly rooted in the Italian home cooking repertoire and something one is unlikely to find in restaurants.
Traditionally, it would be served with sugo d’arrosto (i.e. the juices left after roasting a piece of meat), with ragù and, my favorite, with butter and Parmigiano; I have also served it with a tomato sauce and some melting cheese – rather untraditional but delicious. Once you understand the idea, you can play around with it: you could add a layer of some prosciutto cotto (Italian roasted ham), substituting the spinach with other vegetables (courgette, broccoli, asparagus), using different cheeses.
If you have never make gnocchi dough (and even if you are a seasoned cook), I do advise reading this SeriousEats article and in particular the Marco Canora’s version referred to in it.
Strucolo de spinaze in tavaiol ovvero strudel di spinaci e patate come lo fanno a Trieste (potato and spinach strudel from Trieste, boiled and baked)
The gnocchi dough:
700-800g floury, baking potatoes
150 g 00 flour: I use considerably less flour than what I have seen in many Italian recipes, if you are proficient at gnocchi making, you could go even reduce it further
salt and nutmeg
1 egg, whisked
1 kg spinach (gross weight), cleaned, steamed and squeezed dry. When using young spinach (not baby though), do use also their tender stems
50 g butter
freshly grated nutmeg and the grated zest of half a small lemon
100 g grated Parmigiano
250 g ricotta, well drained and blotted dry
100 g Asiago or Montasio cheese, cubed (Fontina cheese is fine too – less authentic, but more easily available). Not strictly necessary, but nice addition
To finish the strudel:
50 g butter
few tablespoons of grated Parmigiano
A roomy saucepan, large enough to fit the strudel, I used a 32 cm wide/12 cm high frying pan
Start by preparing the filling, that should be cold when assembling the strudel. Melt the butter and sautè the spinach in it, till they are dry. Transfer them into a mixing bowl and cool down Add the Parmigiano, the eggs and the ricotta. Mix well. Season with the nutmeg,lemon zest, salt and pepper.
Steam the potatoes skin-on. If you have the oven on, you could roast them instead, even better. Peel them and rice them. Let them fall directly onto your working surface, distributing them in a single even layer, in what chef Canora calls “an island of potatoes” (i.e. do not mound them). Let them cool down until they are barely warm to the touch and there is not any more steam coming out of them.
Add some salt & pepper and the egg. Sprinkle half the flour over and start incorporating it using a bench scraper, cutting, lifting and turning the dough onto itself. Add the rest of the flour and repeat. When all the flour has been incorporated,bring the dough together using your hands: this is gentle, quick kneading, if your work the dough too much, it will fall, paradoxically, become stickier and stickier. Check the link I mentioned above.
Press out the dough onto a wet piece of parchment paper, measuring roughly 30×25 cm: if you lightly oil your palms, the job will be easier. Spread the spinach filling atop the dough, leaving a little border all around.
Distribute the cubed cheese on the filling.
Roll up the strudel, holding the the parchment paper as a guide. The strudel should roll up almost by itself – do not worry if some filling spills out at the sides. Seal the sides.
Roll up the strudel in the same parchment paper. Once formed and enclosed (torpedo-style) into the parchment paper, you can give the strudel a neater shape, by rolling it over the counter. Transfer the strudel onto a clean kitchen towel and roll it up. Tie it up with some kitchen string: the sides and the body, as if it were a salame.
Transfer it into a roomy saucepan, fill it with water and bring gently to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Leave it to cool down in the water for half an hour, then gently transfer it onto a chopping board. Carefully remove the cloth and the parchment paper. Slice it into thick slices and transfer them onto a buttered oven tray. Dress them with melted butter and Parmigiano and bake them at 180 C for about 30 minutes, or untill nicely golden.
Quaderno di cucina Triestina, presentato da Fulvia Costantinides, Pillinini Editore, 2000
The Food of Norther Italy, Anna del Conte
La cucina regionale italiana: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Mondadori Elects 2008