Gnocchi is a traditional Italian dish of delightfully puffy little dumplings, most often made of potato and semolina. This dish goes back so far, it’s origins are lost in history. The word is thought to derive from “nocca” (knuckle), or perhaps come from “nocchio,” like Pinocchio, or a knot in wood. Useful as a side dish, or expanded to an entree, gnocchi is versatile and easy to make. This recipe uses spinach for a novel color and added nutritional value. Some serving suggestions have been included below.
1 lb. whole milk ricotta cheese (low fat is not advised for this recipe)
1 lb fresh spinach
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
Layer the inside of a colander with paper towels and lay the ricotta in it to drain excess moisture. Wash the spinach, pat or spin dry and chop finely. Squeeze as much excess moisture out of the spinach as possible. In a large bowl, fluff the spinach with a fork, then add the lemon juice, ricotta, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Add 1 cup of flour to the bowl and mix by hand. Only use the remaining flour if the dough is too sticky to work.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Divid the dough into smaller pieces about the size of a lemon. By hand, lightly roll the dough into cylinders about the width of your little finger, stretching outward as you go. Cut the cylinders into 1 inch pieces, allow them to roll over your finger to shape. Mark a small depression in the pieces with the tines of a fork.
Bring 6 quarts of salted water to boil in a stock pot. Add the gnocchi and stir to prevent sticking. Be careful not to overfill the pot, or it can be difficult to separate the gnocchi. As gnocchi cooks, it floats to the surface. Allow the floating gnocchi to cook about 1 more minute and remove with a slotted spoon.
Saute spinach gnocchi briefly in extra virgin olive oil. Toss with fresh grated parmesan cheese and serve.
Spinach gnocchi makes an excellent salad with sliced mushrooms, zucchini, roasted red peppers and chopped tomatoes. Drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil, basil and balsamic vinegar.
Smother the spinach gnocchi in your favorite spaghetti sauce and serve as an alternative to regular pasta.