These gnocchi are a slightly lighter and looser gnocchi than usual.They are quick to put together and, at a stretch, can be said to be made from store cupboard ingredients. Ricotta and spinach from the freezer, lemons, parmesan, eggs and flour.
Anyone who knows me well knows I love food bargains and hate waste. One of our extended family who lived with us for a while was known to to ask “what’s special for dinner tonight”, and he wasn’t referring to my cooking! In fairness he always did seem to love the cooking as well.
My bargain hunting means I always have a stock of short dated ricotta in my freezer ready for savoury or sweet treats.
These little gnocchi are substantial enough to be the hero of your meal and will team well with any of the usual simple pasta accompaniments – simple brown butter is amazing, but for a lighter approach think about wilted spinach, peas and pine nuts, sweet summer cherry tomatoes and basil, a simple Puttanesca sauce, or a wintery dish of roast pumpkin and toasted almonds!(……Maybe some of the fresh asparagus and peas just starting to appear in the market, topped with a few lightly toasted pine nuts – YUM!.)
I have also wandered off track a little with these in the experimentation process and have enjoyed them in a curry sauce and used them as dumplings in a big oxtail stew. I cooked them from raw in the sauce both times and very happily enjoyed the results
Before we go any further, I want to acknowledge that there are a lot of approximate measures – this is because of the vagaries of measurements – such as – the ricotta I buy, which varies slightly in its weights, the measurements will also depend on how well the ricotta and spinach is drained. You are aiming for a soft dough but with enough body to hold your gnocchi together. If this all sounds tricky don’t be put off, there is quite a lot of leeway here.
LEMONY SPINACH AND RICOTTA GNOCCHI
Feeds four hungry people as a main course
- Approximately 350 grams well drained and pressed ricotta
- Approximately 125 grams frozen spinach well squeezed and chopped
- Approximately 100 grams finely grated parmesan or peccorino cheese
- Approximately 1 cup flour
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- Zest of one lemon (the juice can be squeezed over the gnocchi later)
The first two steps are very important in making nice firm gnocchi that don’t fall a part, so please pay attention to them.
I am also sure that if you wanted to you could save the drained liquid from these and add to your morning smoothie for added nutrition and no waste.
Step one – start by draining your ricotta, I do this by placing it in a folded clean tea towel and pressing it with a heavy hand to remove excess liquid. You could wrap it in the towel and leave it with something weighty such as a food processor on it to extract the liquid.
Step two – squeeze the liquid from the spinach.
Add all ingredients to a large bowl and mix together gently with a fork until just combined.
Leave your mixture to rest for at least half an hour.
I have kept the mix well wrapped in the refrigerator for several days. To keep it from discolouring it needs to be totally wrapped in clingfilm. (If anyone has an alternative to clingfilm I would be very happy to hear it!)
While your mix is resting bring a large pot of well salted water to a gentle simmer.
Warm your serving bowls and prepare your accompaniments.
Once your mix has rested and you are ready to cook.Form a teaspoon full of your dough into a test ball and gently lower it into the simmering water. This is your chance to adjust your seasonings and if necessary add a little more flour (the only time I would add more flour is if the ball disintegrates in the pot). You will get a little loose spinach floating around but this is okay and can be scooped up with the gnocchi when it is cooked. The gnocchi should rest on the bottom of the pot for a few minutes and then gently float to the surface. I let them sit on the surface for about three minutes before removing with a slotted spoon, I rest the spoon over a dry towel for a moment before placing the gnocchi on a plate to cool for a second – and then you can taste test!
Once you are happy with the seasoning you can continue to cook the gnocchi.
When shaping the gnocchi I find it easiest to have a bowl of water to keep my hands slightly wet. You can roll them all out into teaspoon size balls, or alternately into ropes that you cut into inch long pieces and mark with a fork in a traditional style.
You can rest them at this point until you are ready to cook them.
Cook them in batches without over crowding the pot, you want enough room for them to float to the top and have enough space between them so they don’t stick together. Depending on the diameter of the pot or pan you are cooking them in, and factoring in that the more you cook at the same time the longer they will take to cook, you could consider having two pots of water.
The cooked gnocchi will hold on a warm tray while you cook the the rest of the mixture.
Today I added a handful of peas to the pot just as the gnocchi were rising to the surface so they were warmed through and then served them over spinach with the peas, pinenuts, a dusting of parmesan and pepper for my delicious light lunch
I really hope you will give these a try, they are definitely delicious and very versatile!.
Happy days !