27 March 2012

From the Chef ~ Spring Greens and Ricotta Gnocchi

The photos and the recipe directly below are the gnocchi I made for Sunday night dinner at my folks home this past weekend.  Oh my god, were they awesome!  So, I want to share them with you.  I'm posting two reliable versions of this exquisite dish!  There are several recipes for these on the internet, so the first version is my adaptation.  Generally speaking, recipes include spinach, ricotta, some parmigiano, a bit of flour and eggs.  I made the ricotta from scratch the morning before (see recipe below under March 2012).  Out gardening in the yard that afternoon, I noticed a robust patch of rainbow chard that had happily overwintered.  That's when I got the idea to put these together and revisit this favorite dish.  And don't worry about homemade-homegrown ingredients.  Make life easy:  buy some decent ricotta and some spinach or chard, and you will see that these are really easy to whip together.  Enjoy!  

  1. In a large pot of water, blanch 1 big bunch of chard, spinach, or other green until just wilted.  Hey, why not experiment with some combination for something truly unique.  Let drain a few minutes and then squeeze out liquid.  Chop very finely.
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine minced greens, 2 cups whole-milk ricotta, 1/2 cup grated parmigiano cheese, 1/2 cup flour, 2 large beaten egg yolks, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. freshly grated pepper, and a big punch nutmeg.
  3. Grab a small clump of the mixture and roll out on a floured surface a 5-6" long rope to about 3/4 inch in thickness.  Cut rope into 3/4 inch pieces, and with floured hands, roll into oblong gnocchi.  Place on a flour-covered tray.
  4. Bring a pot of water to a low boil.  You don't want the water to boil too hard or these delicate dumplings could disintegrate!  Add about half gnocchi to water.  In a few minutes they will rise to the top; let them boil an additional minute and then remove from pot with a slotted spoon.  Allow them to drain in a stainer for a minute or two.
  5. Simultaneously while boiling gnocchi, bring 1/4 cup butter and 12-16 sages leaves to barely a simmer.  Place gnocchi on a platter or in individual serving bowls and spoon sage butter over gnocchi.  Serve immediately with a dusting of grated parmigiano. 

This second recipe comes from Cucina Italian magazine.  I published it in Casa Fiore #15 ~ June 2005.

Genova and the greater Italian Riviera (located in the northwestern Italian region of Liguria) offer a unique cuisine to satisfy a diverse array of tastes.  Hemmed in between the vast Mediterranean and the mountainous “Entroterra” region, the Ligurian kitchen is dominated by local seafood and fish and fresh vegetables and herbs.  This two part series will feature vegetable and herb pasta dishes, one that is world famous, and another that should be.  I hope you will enjoy these tastes of Genova as much as I do!

1. Place 1.5 LBS. SWISS CHARD, BROCCOLI RAPA, ARUGULA, OR SPINACH (I prefer spinach) in a large skillet over medium heat with a little bit of water.  Cover and cook until wilted.  Drain, roughly chop, and squeeze out some of the excess water without wringing the greens too dry.  Chop very finely by hand and place in a mixing bowl.
3. Add 1 CUP FLOUR and mix until forming a wet dough.
4. With floured hands, pinch off tablespoon-size amounts of the dough and roll gently to form oblong balls. Place on a sheet covered with wax paper until ready to cook.
5. Bring a large, salted pot of water to a boil.  Add the gnocchi.  Cook until they rise to the surface, count to 10, and remove from the water with a slotted spoon.
6. Melt 1/2 STICK (OR MORE) OF BUTTER over low heat.  Add 20 FRESH SAGE LEAVES and cook until soft and fragrant (2-3 minutes). 
7. Gently toss gnocchi with sage-butter.  Dust with plenty of grated PARMIGIANO CHEESE and serve.