You can make gnocchi – little Italian dumplings – using potato, semolina or ricotta and if you’ve only ever had the sad, heavy gnocchi sold in supermarkets you are in for a real treat.
These particular light and fluffy morsels are made with ricotta and they virtually float off your fork and into your mouth. Heavenly.
I hadn’t made them for years until I read a post from Mel at Edible Things, who has picked up the cheese-making gauntlet thrown down by Fromage Homage and run amok with it, often in the gnudi. You’ll have to read her piece now or that will haunt you.
Unlike Mel I didn’t make my own ricotta (hats off to her) but I humbly submit that these gnocchi are none the worse for that.
It’s 12 months today, by the way, since I wrote my own first post for Mrs Portly. Thanks to everyone who has cooked, contributed and commented. I hope you’ll stick around for a few more anniversaries.
The original recipe comes from Elizabeth David’s Italian Food. It’s lèse-majesté but I have taken the liberty of tinkering with it very slightly.
450g spinach (uncooked weight)
250g ricotta cheese
40g grated Parmesan, plus plenty more to serve
3 tbsp plain flour
The zest of a lemon
Salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg
A few fried sage leaves to garnish
Wash the spinach, remove any tough central spines, shake it dry and cook it with a pinch of salt but no water.
Drain it, press it completely dry, wringing out every drop of moisture you can, then chop it finely.
Put it in a saucepan with salt, pepper, a grating of nutmeg and a small knob of butter.
Add the ricotta, sieving it if it’s grainy, and stir everything together over a low heat for five minutes.
Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs, Parmesan, lemon zest and flour.
It will seem too sloppy to cook with at this stage but don’t worry, you haven’t dropped a clanger. Put the mixture in the fridge to firm up for anything from two to 12 hours, the longer the better.
Prepare a shallow ovenproof dish, covering the base with 25g of melted butter and a thin layer of grated Parmesan.
Flour a board and make the gnocchi mixture into little cork-sized croquettes. It will still feel very soft but the eggs and flour will combine to hold everything together when you cook it.
Roll the gnocchi in the flour and drop them in small batches into a big pan of lightly salted, barely simmering water.
They’re done when they bob to the top – it should only take four or five minutes.
Remove them carefully with a slotted spoon and lay them gently into your pre-prepared dish.
Put the first batch into the oven to keep warm while you cook the rest.
You can serve them simply with more melted butter and grated Parmesan and garnished with a few crispy fried sage leaves or with a fresh, light tomato and basil sauce (recipe here).