It should come as no surprise that given its location along beautiful Lake Como, fish is found on every menu in the local restaurants. But for a truly superb and elegant experience, there is no other like the Michelin-starred Veranda restaurant at the Villa D’Este. Following aperitivo, guests stroll into the blue and yellow room. With windows overlooking the lake, each can be assured of a refined, yet approachable dining experience. Many of the menu items appear familiar, but are prepared with a flair and polish that redefines each dish. For those who may not have the opportunity to luxuriate in the Veranda, we have selected three recipes for you to try at home. Although you may not be able to recreate the ambiance of the restaurant, dress to the nines for dinner and think of the elegance that may await you on a trip to Lake Como.
Gnocchi with Porcini Mushrooms
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp unsalted butter
6 oz dried porcini mushrooms
2 shallots, minced
1/4 cup dry vermouth
3/4 cup chicken stock
½ cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon chopped thyme
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 lb fresh gnocchi
6 tbsp Parmigiano cheese, freshly grated
Soften the porcini mushrooms in hot water for at least 15 minutes. Preheat the broiler. In a large ovenproof skillet, heat the olive oil with the butter. Add the shallots and cook over a high flame, stirring frequently, until browned, about 6 minutes. Add the mushroom and the vermouth and cook until the vermouth has evaporated. Add the chicken stock, cream and thyme; season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the gnocchi until they float to the surface, about 3 minutes. Drain well. Add the gnocchi to the mushrooms and simmer, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in 1/4 cup of the Parmigiano and sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons on top.
Broil the gnocchi 6 inches from the heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Remove from the broiler and serve.
Braised Rabbit with Ravioli
1 rabbit, cut up
1 cup flour seasoned with 1 tsp of salt and ½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup carrots, peeled and diced
1 cup celery, diced
1 bouquet garni fresh sprigs of thyme, sage and oregano tied with string
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup vegetable stock
For the dough
1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour plus some extra flour for dusting
3 egg yolks
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
For the filling
½ cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmigiano cheese
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp each minced fresh sage and thyme
1 pinch sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons shallot minced
2 cups fresh mushrooms thickly sliced
cooked rabbit removed from bones
2 cups braising liquid from the pan
Dust rabbit pieces with seasoned flour. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high flame. Add the rabbit and brown evenly on all sides. Remove rabbit and place in a roasting pan. Add onion, celery and carrot to skillet and cook until translucent. Add to pan with rabbit pieces. Add bouquet garni, vegetable stock and wine to pan. Place in a 325°F oven for 1 ½ hours or until meat falls off of the bone easily.
While the rabbit is cooking, prepare the dough. Place the flour in a wide bowl, making a well in the center of the flour. Add two of the egg yolks to the well and begin beating the yolks with a fork. Add the last egg yolk and continue processing the mixture. Add half of the balsamic vinegar and process for a minute more. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and work the dough until it forms a ball. Knead for 5 minutes. Form dough into a ball and drizzle remaining balsamic vinegar over it. Cover with a damp cloth and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Working with one dough ball at a time, roll into a square, about 1/16th of an inch thick. Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes while you make the stuffing. Cut the square in half with a knife.
Blend all of the ingredients for the filling together. Place a teaspoon-sized portion of the filling about 2 inches apart in rows on one of the sheets of rolled dough. Make a wash with 1 egg and 1/4 cup water. Using a pastry brush, seal the edges of the ravioli with the wash. Place a second sheet of pasta over the first and press down firmly to seal edges. Cut ravioli into squares and then crimp edges.
Place the ravioli into lightly boiling salted water. Cook for 2 minutes. To finish, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and add shallots and mushrooms and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cooked rabbit, braising liquid and ravioli. Simmer for 5 minutes to combine flavors. Serve immediately.
Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Rhubarb
This is a specialty of the Villa D’Este’s Grill restaurant that you can try at home.
1 lb rhubarb, stalks only
½ cup shallots
1 ½ tbsp unsalted butter, melted 1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp minced thyme
6 thyme sprigs, about 2” long
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
two 3/4 lb pork tenderloins
Slice the shallots in half lengthwise and then thinly slice crosswise. Cut the rhubarb in ½” thick slices. Light a grill. In a medium bowl, toss the rhubarb and shallots with melted butter to coat. Stir in the sugar and minced thyme. Season with salt and pepper.
Cut the tenderloin into 6 pieces and gently pound each piece until 1” thick. Tear off four 16-inch-long sheets of extra-heavy-duty foil. Mound half of the rhubarb mixture in the center of each of 2 foil sheets. Gently pound the thicker pieces of pork about 1 inch thick. Season with salt and pepper and press a thyme sprig onto each piece.
Arrange the pieces of pork in a layer on the rhubarb. Cover with the 2 remaining sheets of foil; fold up the edges all around to seal. Grill the foil packs over a very hot fire for about 12 minutes, or until sizzling and puffed. Using oven mitts, transfer the packs to a rimmed platter. Open the packs carefully, transfer the pork and rhubarb to plates and serve.