Monday, August 2, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi with Spinach and Mushroom Tomato Sauce

Gnocchi are delicious little "lumps" of dough, usually made from a mixture of flour and potatoes and served with any type of sauce.  Different varieties of gnocchi have been made in Italy for centuries. Gnocchi can be found frozen or vacuum sealed at most grocery stores but they are also incredibly easy to make at home and infinitely better that way. Because they are free-formed dumplings, they are much easier to make than homemade pasta since there's no rolling to be done. And looks are not as important as taste (as can be seen by my less-than-perfect looking gnocchi). This particular version of gnocchi is made with ricotta cheese as the base, making them incredibly creamy and delicious. When topped with tomato sauce, this dish is reminiscent of lasagna but lacks the many steps involved in making a traditional lasagna. The sauce is a delicious combination of fresh mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes but any sauce would be great over these gnocchi. The tomatoes pair really well with the ricotta but a pesto or butter sauce would also work. I came across this gnocchi recipe while browsing headlines on from the blog Houseboat Eats. The sauce I came up with on my own and could easily be modified based on what you have on hand. I would have much preferred to use fresh basil and thyme, but unfortunately I only had dried. If you have fresh, leave out the dried and add about 1 tablespoon of basil and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme toward the end of the cooking process.

Ricotta Gnocchi
  • 1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and egg yolk. Stir to incorporate yolk and remove any lumps from the ricotta.
Fold in the flour and Parmesan cheese. Mix until just combined. Avoid overmixing to keep the dough light. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Season with salt and pepper.
Roll the dough into logs about 1 inch thick. Cut the logs into 1.5 inch dumplings.
Place the dumplings on a floured baking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook half of the gnocchi for about 2 minutes. They will begin to float when done. Remove with a slotted spoon and cook the remaining batch.

Spinach and Mushroom Tomato Sauce
  • 5 oz (1 large bag) baby spinach, washed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 6 oz (or so) sliced mushrooms, any variety
  • 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook half of the spinach by fully submerging it in the water for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a colander. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Let the spinach drain, pushing out as much water as possible, while making the sauce.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook until browned, 8-10 minutes.
Season with a pinch of salt to release any remaining moisture in the mushrooms.
Add both cans of tomatoes. Season with basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken.
Stir in the drained spinach and adjust seasonings.
Spoon sauce over cooked gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

For a printable recipe click here

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