My first memories of eating potato gnocchi are a series of Italian tragedies. Potato bullets smothered in a pasty tomato passatas, dry dumplings overtaken by pungent blue cheese sauces, and gnocchi that seem to transform from dumplings into lumpy mash.
I know making potato gnocchi by hand, following tips from generations of Italians, will give tender dumplings, however, I find myself apprehensive to make them myself.
My love affair with ricotta gnocchi is no secret. Pillow like dumplings gently tossed in a simple sauce is my comfort food. They are simple to make, using a few ingredients and a gentle touch.
For a variation I have used a common technique used with potato gnocchi of poaching and then pan frying in butter and oil to give these spinach and ricotta gnocchi texture and extra flavour.
A labour of love, gnocchi should never be doused in an overpowering sauce. I like to serve my pan fried gnocchi with roughly chopped ripe tomatoes and basil.
150g baby spinach leaves
300g fresh ricotta
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs finely grated parmesan
1 egg, lightly beaten
150g (1 cup) plain flour, sifted (plus extra to dust)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
micro basil leaves, to serve
Heat a frying pan over medium heat. Place spinach in a colander and rinse with water. Transfer spinach to pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, tossing, or until just wilted (the water on the spinach will create steam and help cook the spinach). Place cooked spinach in a colander and leave to drain and cool.
In a bowl combine ricotta, lemon zest, parmesan and egg. Season with salt and pepper and mix to combine. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible from spinach and roughly chop. Add spinach to ricotta mixture and mix. Add flour and mix until just combined.
Divide gnocchi into 4 batches. On a lightly floured surface, working one batch at a time, roll gnocchi into a log 3 cm wide. Dust a sharp knife with flour and cut gnocchi into 1 cm wide pieces and set aside. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil and reduce heat to medium heat. In 4 batches cook gnocchi for 2-3 minutes, or until gnocchi float to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a lightly oiled tray. Repeat with remaining gnocchi.
Heat olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Cook for 1 minute, or until butter is foaming. Add gnocchi and cook, turning for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve gnocchi tossed with tomatoes and basil leaves.