The story behind this dish is one of those vaguely annoying Under the Tuscan Sun-style ones, but I’m going to tell it regardless, so deal with it.
In the summer of 2005, I was lucky enough to get a spot at an archaeological field school dig at Pompeii. It was a fantastic summer (Shout out to my PARPPS peeps!), and in addition to a lot of sweating, crouching, and poking around in the dirt, we had a lot of chances to eat and drink.
We cooked in our apartments a fair bit, and my apartment at least drank its fair share of one euro bottles of local wine. But there were also a few restaurants worth the trip. For all of Pompeii’s fame and tourism, the town itself (which is actually called Pompei as opposed to the ruins of the ancient town which are Pompeii) is pretty sleepy. Most of the visitors to the site actually stay in the more glamorous towns along the Amalfi coast – Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, etc.
But there were some great little places that catered to the locals, and my personal favorite was a small, family-owned place up the hill a bit from where we lived. They made great pizzas and delicious seafood, but there was one pasta dish in particular that blew me away.
Ravioli di Noccioli e Gorgonzola were amazing housemade (fatti in casa!) pockets of crunchy hazelnuts and sharp, melting Gorgonzola cheese. They were spectacular, and I ordered them pretty much every time I went.
So when I found myself with an extra hunk of Gorgonzola in my fridge, I immediately thought of this dish and how I might recreate it. Since I didn’t really feel like making pasta dough and stuffing ravioli, I decided, like any good modern chef, to “deconstruct” the ravioli and turn them into a sauced pasta instead.
I googled around a bit to look into ratios and found a few similar recipes that also included greens, so I decided to follow suit. It still isn’t light cuisine, but hey, when in Pompei…
Gemelli Pasta Gorgonzola with Greens and Hazelnuts
I used gemelli pasta because I had it in my pantry, but you can choose your own adventure. Pick a pasta, though, that will hold the sauce, something with grooves, ridges, or cavities. For some ideas, check out this sweet wikipedia list.
1 pound pasta
1/2 pound Gorgonzola or similar sweetish blue cheese
1 cup milk
1 tbs. butter
1 bunch greens (I used chard, but any will do)
2/3 cup hazlenuts, roughly chopped, plus extra for garnish/taste
1. Bring pot of water to a boil.
2. Wash greens and chop into small pieces. Add to boiling water and cook until tender, probably about 5-8 minutes. Remove to a colander to drain, leaving water in pot to use for pasta.
3. Bring water back to a boil and salt aggressively. Add pasta.
4. In a medium sauce pan, combine milk and cheese. Heat over medium-low, stirring occasionally, until smooth and slightly thickened.
5. When pasta is al dente, drain in colander with the greens, then toss pasta and greens back into pot. Add butter to prevent sticking and provide buttery goodness.
6. When sauce is ready, add to pasta and toss to coat. Add hazelnuts and stir to combine. Taste for salt, and season accordingly.
7. Plate and garnish with extra hazelnuts. Serve with salad and – if available – a one euro bottle of local wine.