Saturday, January 17, 2015

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi--Quintessential Comfort Food

This cold weather we have been experiencing for the last couple of weeks inspires me to make comfort food. And in my home comfort food means Italian food. Most likely, it would be a pasta or a risotto dish. But recently, I have been experimenting with gnocchi, which my kids happened to like very much.

Sometimes, I make regular potato gnocchi which are similar to Polish potato dumplings. In Poland we serve them most often with meat sauce. However, when I make them Italian style, I usually make them vegetarian and serve them with cheese, basil or tomato sauce.

Since the potato gnocchi have already been known and well-liked in my home, last week, I decided to introduce my kids to the spinach-ricotta gnocchi. They turned out to be easy and quick to make. The only challenging part of the whole process was to form the very delicate and sticky dough into balls. Adding more flour would have helped but it would also changed the consistency of the dough. And because the dough was made mostly from cheese and spinach with very little flour, the gnocchi came out very delicate.

I used three different Italian recipes which were quite similar in the proportions of the ingredients used, but just differed in the finishing touches. I choose the one calling for pine nuts and Pecorino Romano rather than Parmesan cheese. They were excellent freshly boiled but on the next day my son got them for lunch, fried lightly in butter, which made them slightly crunchy and even more tasty.

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

2 lb spinach leaves,
1 and 1/2 cup Ricotta,
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano,
3 eggs,
6 tbsp all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting,
1/2 cup unsalted butter,
1/4 cup pine nuts,
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg,
salt and pepper.

1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain well and cool. When spinach is cool squeeze any extra water and chop it finely.
2. In a large bowl combine spinach, ricotta, slightly beaten eggs, 1/2 cup Pecorino, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Work in quickly about 6 tbsp of flour to make a smooth dough.

3. While preparing the gnocchi, bring to boil a large pot of water with a tbsp of salt. In another, smaller pot melt butter. Add pine nuts and fry them in butter until they turn slightly brown.
4. Dust generously a large cutting board with flour. Take a tbsp of dough and roll it in the flour until a round ball forms.

5. Put the gnocchi one by one in the boiling water. When they start to float on top, turn the heat down to medium and let them boil for 2–3 minutes.
6. Drain the gnocchi. Transfer them to a serving plate, pour butter with pine nuts over them and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino.