RICOTTA AND SPINACH GNOCCHI
Serves: 4 to 6
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cooking: 15 minutes
One of my favorite dishes from Tuscany is GNUDI or spinach and ricotta gnocchi. Gnudi means ‘naked,’ referring to these delicious gnocchi made with ravioli filling. This style of gnocchi is basically like ravioli without the pasta shell making them ‘naked.’ These are made with spinach, but I also like to use wild greens from our field. I like to serve gnudi in the traditional way, with butter and sage while adding my personal touch of a bit of lemon zest. Try them for yourself!
450 gr / 1 lb blanched spinach (frozen or fresh) chopped and squeezed very dry at room temperature
450 gr / 1 lb fresh ricotta, firm and drained
150 gr / 1 cups all purpose flour
150 gr / 1 cups rice flour to roll the gnocchi (more if needed)
150 gr / 1 cup finely grated parmigiano cheese
2 egg yolks
75 gr / 6 tbsp (3 oz) butter
a pinch of ground nutmeg
3 medium handfuls coarse sea salt
4-5 fresh sage leaves (1 ½ tsp chopped fresh or ½ tsp dried sage)
1 lemon for zesting
Salt & ground black pepper
To make the gnocchi dough:
Combine in a large mixing bowl:
• blanched, squeezed spinach
• half the parmigiano cheese
• all-purpose flour
• egg yolks
• a pinch of nutmeg
Mix with your hands until you get a smooth dough. Add fine salt and ground pepper to taste.
If the mixture sticks to your hands, add more flour as needed. The dough doesn’t need to be worked for a long time, but just enough to incorporate the flour into the ricotta and spinach. The mixture should be quite moist but still hold together. At this stage, it is important to make sure that ricotta and spinach are well drained of any excess liquid. Draining excess liquid will help to avoid the addition of too much flour that leads to a gummy texture of gnocchi.
To shape the gnocchi:
Flour a baking sheet with rice flour and place it near your rolling area. Put the remaining rice flour in a bowl that you can fit your hand in and place it next to your rolling area.
Your ideal rolling area should be large and flat with a little bit of roughness to it. A wooden cutting board works well. Too smooth a surface will make it difficult to roll out, while too rough a surface will catch and tear the dough.
With well-floured hands, take a piece from the dough and shape it into a rope about ¾ inch thick and 4’’ long. If the roll won’t hold together, put it back into the dough, add more flour as needed and work again.
Cut the roll along the rope from end to end into small pieces, the size of a small walnut. It is important to attempt to keep them all the same size so that the cooking time is uniform. Repeat the process with the rest of the dough and place the pieces on the floured baking sheet.
To cook your gnocchi:
You will need a small sauce pan for the butter and sage and a large wide pot to cook your gnocchi. Place the butter and sage in the small sauce pan on the stove but don’t turn the heat on yet. Bring the water to a boil in the large pot and add the coarse sea salt once it’s boiling.
You can now start the heat under your butter. Keep the heat low as to not brown the butter. The heat should just melt it enough to infuse the butter with the sage. Turn off the heat once butter is melted and leave it with the sage in until the sauce is ready for use. Put one third of the gnocchi in the water and lower the heat until the water boils with small, calm bubbles that the creep up the side. The cooking time is short, about two to three minutes. Gnocchi are ready when they float to the surface of the water. Be sure to taste test one before you drain. Scoop up the gnocchi with a small slotted spoon or drainer and try to drain as much liquid as possible.
The water will cool slightly with each new set of gnocchi, so make sure to keep monitoring the boiling level and taste testing before you drain the next batches.
To plate your Gnocchi:
You will layer each 1/3 of the gnocchi with melted butter and sage, parmigiano and lemon zest after you cook each batch.
Place the cooked gnocchi on a serving tray. Drizzle 1/3 of your melted butter and sage. Sprinkle parmigiano and zest the lemon on top of each layer to your preference. It’s preferable to zest the lemon directly onto the dish. You can zest before hand if you like, but the zest may clump together and will not taste as bright.
Cook the rest of the gnocchi in batches as before and repeat the garnish. Serve as soon as possible.
NOTE: As you practice making gnocchi you will have a better sense of when the dough has enough flour. The first few times you may wish to roll out 2-3 test gnocchi and cook them before rolling out all your dough. If the gnocchi dissolve or are too mushy once cooked, you will want to add more flour to the dough. The final texture of your cooked gnocchi is a matter of personal preference (within limits). Add flour sparingly. You can make them more dry, but not more wet.
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