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Gnocchi with Duck Liver and Porcini

Gnocchi with Duck Liver and Porcini

The tajarin the other day got me doing some research into Piedmont cuisine and I found that an old favorite of mine, potato gnocchi and chicken liver sauce (salsa di fegatini) is an ancient combination that's popular there. Elizabeth David, in Italian Food, offers a typically succinct recipe for the sauce: "1/2 lb. of chicken livers, a few dried mushrooms, flour, Marsalla, stock, butter....Cook the [chopped, floured] chicken livers in butter with the [reconstituted] mushrooms. Season them with salt and pepper, pour over 1 sherry-glassful of Marsalla or white wine. When this has reduced, add 1 cupful of chicken or meat stock and simmer the sauce until it is thick."

When I stopped at the Super 88 Asian market the other day I came away, as I often do, with a half-pound container of fresh duck livers, so I decided to make the sauce with them. I usually make my own gnocchi (slavishly following Marcella Hazan's recipe in The Essentials of Italian Cooking) but  a couple of weeks ago my friend Joe and I stopped at Micucci's Groceries in Portland -- a wonderful shop full of Italian specialty foods and wholesale quantities of things like porcini and dried spices -- and I spied some great-looking gnocchi in the freezer. They looked so much like the ones I make that I couldn't resist. I guess I'm getting lazy!

The sauce is an adaptation of the basic David formula, with the addition of some fresh tomatoes and rosemary.

Duck Liver Pasta Sauce

3 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 sprigs rosemary, minced
8 oz chicken or duck livers, cut in 1/2" dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, chopped
1/2 cup flour
1 cup wine
1 cup chicken broth
hot sauce, salt to taste
olive oil
truffle oil (optional)

Soak the dried mushrooms about 10 minutes in hot water. Carefully lift them from the liquid with a slotted spoon and rinse briefly to remove any grit. Strain and reserve the soaking liquid, leaving the last half-teaspoonful (with any remaining grit) in the bowl.

Sauté the onion in some olive oil on medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Lightly salt the liver and toss in the flour, shaking off excess, and add to the pan. Raise heat and brown the liver, stirring. Add the mushrooms, tomatoes, rosemary, half the garlic and the wine and reduce quickly, stirring. Add the broth and the mushroom liquid, lower heat to medium, and cook uncovered about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Correct seasoning and add the remaining garlic just before serving. Serve with gnocchi or pasta, drizzled with the optional truffle oil.


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Stephen, that looks and sounds unbelievably delicious, a perfect dish for the fall and winter. My appetite is definitely ready for the change in seasons, especially in anticipation of dishes like this.

Ohhh----this looks so delicious! Gnocci is one of my favorite dishes. I learned to love it whne I lived in Buenos Aires some time ago. Hmmm, fantastic :)

Oh, those gnocchi look so good. I use Marcella's recipe too. How were those store bought ones? I was wondering, does rolling them on a fork actually do anything? I just slice them as little pillows because I am too lazy to roll each one. Do you think it helps the taste, or does it just make them look prettier? I am planning on ghocchi with wild mushrooms and truffle oil this weekend :)

Hi again Ruth...thanks for stopping by...the frozen ones were, as expected, a little heavier than the home made...I think the grooves from rolling them off the fork tines catch and hold the sauce, but of course it's a fine point...I do it because once you get the motion down it's very quick...and I like the way they look, with more of a crafted look than freatureless lumps have...also, imposing that uniform pattern on each one distracts from the inevitable fact that when made by hand they are all different sizes and shapes, so the presentation is more pleasing (to me)...all justifications, I think, for the fact that, as mentioned in the post, I follow recipes for such basic and ancient preparations "slavishly," to learn to make and appreciate the foods from previous generations, other epochs, other cultures...with the sauces I bend all the rules, but with the pasta I bow to Marcella...! many words about a few grooves...

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