Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ricotta & Spinach Gnocchi with Mint

A traditional Florentine pasta, ricotta gnocchi are the lighter cousin to northern Italy's potato gnocchi. Although they can be made with almost any ingredients that can be formed into a dough, gnocchi with ricotta is much more forgiving than the potato version — the dough holds together better, and the result is likely to be more pillowy than chewy. Unlike their potato cousin, which can carry anything from a light tomato based sauce to a rich meaty stew, this easy and delicious recipe for Ricotta & Spinach Gnocchi is perfect with a delicate cream sauce made with grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano and fresh mint. 

Gnocchi can be rolled using the tines of a fork or a ridged Gnocchi Board

You can make Ricotta & Spinach Gnocchi in as little time as it takes you to boil the water to cook them in, however the secret to making any gnocchi is to dry the ingredients out as much as possible before using. Also, the amount of flour needed depends on the moisture content of the ingredients, it's often a good idea to start with using three quarters of the amount of flour the recipe calls for initially, and add the remainder gradually — the less flour you use, the lighter the gnocchi will be. K
neading the gnocchi only as long as it takes for the ingredients to hold together into a soft, workable dough. A light hand yields light, delicate gnocchi!

Ricotta & Spinach Gnocchi with Mint

Serves 4-6

For the gnocchi:
1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and thoroughly drained
2 1/2 cups fresh ricotta, drained
1/2 cup finely grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp lemon rind, finely grated using a microplane grater
1 tbsp chopped spearmint leaves
1 cup plain all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup semolina flour

For the sauce:
1 cup single cream
1/2 cup finely grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano, plus more for garnish
1/2 cup mint leaves, plus sprigs for garnish
Maldon salt and finely cracked black pepper

Place the ricotta in a strainer to drain over a bowl and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before using. Chop the spinach coarsely, and purée in a blender or food processor until it's very smooth. Transfer the spinach and the drained ricotta to a large bowl with the grated Parmeggiano, eggs, lemon rind, and mint, mixing well to combine. Begin adding the flour a little at a time until a soft dough is obtained and is not sticking to your hands. 
Knead only as long as it takes for the ingredients to hold together into a soft, workable dough. It may be easier to form the gnocchi if the dough is covered and refrigerated for at least 15-30 minutes, as it will firm up the dough and makes it easier to work with. 

When you're ready, turn the dough out onto a clean surface sprinkled with some semolina flour and roll the dough into long skinny ropes, about 10-inches long and 1/2-inch in diameter. Then cut into 3/4-inch lengths. Using the tines of a fork, or a ridged gnocchi board, press the gnocchi in a rolling motion, to give it ridges, and so the sauce cling to the gnocchi. You may need to dip the fork in flour so that the dough doesn't stick. Place the gnocchi on a cookie sheet in a single layer as you finish shaping them. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Working in batches, cook the gnocchi in a large pot of simmering salted water until the gnocchi float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm until all of the gnocchi are cooked. 
It's a good idea if you're brand new to gnocchi making to test your gnocchi before you prepare the whole batch. Drop a couple of gnocchi into boiling water and remove as soon as they come to the surface. If they fall apart, knead in a little more flour. If they hold up well, continue cutting the rest of your gnocchi.

Pour the cream in a large frying pan over high heat and cook for 1–2 minutes or until it's warmed through. Add the gnocchi, 1/2 cup of Parmeggiano, mint, salt and pepper and toss to coat. Serve immediately in warmed bowls and garnish with a sprig of mint with a bowl of freshly grated Parmeggiano-Reggiano for guests to serve themselves.

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