February 27, 2012

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Do you watch Up All Night? I love it.

Here's some dialogue that had me cracking up during a recent episode:

Chris: Wow, you look great.
Reagan: Not as great as this. What's going on?
Chris: Just a little homemade gnocchi is all. Yeah, I purchased a gnocchi paddle. It's kind of made of wood.
Reagan (tastes the gnocchi): Oh my God. That is so good it's pissing me off. Damn you, you gnocchi bitch.
Chris: It's ricotta based, not potato. I was on Gwyneth Paltrow's website. She kind of walked me through it.

Check out a clip from the show here.

So there I am watching this and cracking up and of course I start to think about gnocchi. On the show Chris is trying to romance Reagan with the gnocchi and some Latin music. She goes to slip into something "more comfortable," which ends up being ratty sweats. He watches his wife in astonishment as she shovels one gnocchi after another into her mouth. Meanwhile I'm thinking, "damn, that gnocchi looks good!"

Unlike Chris, I didn't follow Gwyneth Paltrow's recipe for gnocchi. Maybe she's a good cook(???), but I refuse to buy into the idea of Gwenyth as Domestic Goddess.

I found another recipe for a ricotta-based gnocchi, this one with spinach. It's a little involved, but not particularly difficult.

The gnocchi turns out soft and pillowy. After taking my first bite I thought, "hey, what does this taste like?" And you know what it tastes like? The filling in a spinach lasagna! Because that's essentially what it is -- ricotta, Parmesan, spinach, eggs and some seasoning.

Gnocchi that tastes like the best part of lasagna? You gnocchi bitch.

The night before you want to eat the gnocchi, wrap the ricotta in some cheesecloth. If you can figure out a way to hang it in your fridge to let the extra water drip out, then do that. I couldn't, so I put the cheesecloth into a sieve, then hung that over a bowl in the fridge.

The next day, the ricotta should be dry and crumbly. Mine wasn't quite there. I got some excess water out, but not as much as I should have.

Defrost the spinach, then squeeze all the water out of it.

Mix the spinach together with the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, and flour (a little at a time).

Put the mixture in a pastry bag. I put the mixture in a large Zip Loc bag and cut a corner off. Then pipe pieces of the mixture out onto a sheet pan that you've coated with all purpose flour.

Shake the tray around to coat the pieces with flour.

Then with your hands, very gently shape the pieces into balls. Place the balls on another sheet pan coated with semolina flour (the semolina keep the balls from sticking).

Drop a few gnocchi at a time into a saucepan filled with simmering, salted water. Cook for about 5 minutes until the gnocchi swell slightly and begin to float. Remove them from the water with a mesh strainer and blot them on a kitchen towel before putting them on a plate.

To serve, put some tomato sauce in the center of a plate. You can make your own, or use a good jarred sauce (Rao's marinara is my personal favorite). Place a few gnocchi on top of the sauce and sprinkle with some extra Parmesan.

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

Recipe by Anne Burrell

2 pounds fresh ricotta cheese, wrapped in cheesecloth and hung overnight in refrigerator
1 (9-ounce box) frozen spinach, defrosted and water squeezed out
4 eggs
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese plus more for sprinkling
2 to 3 grates fresh nutmeg
Kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for the outside of the gnocchi
Semolina, for holding the gnocchi
Jarred tomato sauce, for serving

1.    Unwrap the ricotta cheese from the cheesecloth; the texture should be pretty dry and crumbly. If it is really dry (this is good) pass it through the food mill with the biggest holes. Put the cheese into a large bowl.

2.    Finely chop the squeezed spinach and add it to the ricotta. Add the eggs, grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and nutmeg. Mix until well combined. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Add in 1/4 cup of flour. If the mixture is still very wet, add in the remaining 1/4 cup of flour.

3.    Dust a sheet tray generously with flour. Coat another sheet tray generously with semolina flour. Fill a pastry bag with the ricotta/spinach mixture. Pipe 1 1/2-inch balls of the cheese mixture onto the all-purpose flour lined tray. Shake the tray around to coat the balls in flour.

4.    Roll each flour coated cheese piece around in your hand to form a ball. Do this gently so as to not squish the cheese balls. Arrange them on the semolina lined tray.

5.    Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat until the water is at a simmer. Carefully add the gnocchi to the simmering water. Cook until the gnocchi float and have begun to swell, 3 to 5 minutes.

6.    On individual serving plates, spoon some of your favorite jarred tomato sauce on each plate and spread it out until it becomes a 4 to 5-inch circle.

7.    Using a spider or long handled mesh strainer, carefully remove the gnocchi from the cooking water, blot on a tea towel and arrange 5 gnocchi on each circle of sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.

Serves 6 to 8

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