Sunday, October 16, 2005

Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi

A couple of years ago, I read an article in the Boston Globe (good local newspaper, terrible food section) about gnocchi. I'd heard of it but had never eaten it and certainly never cooked it. It sounded interesting so I followed the recipe and boy was it good! It's not made with potato but with spinach, ricotta, flour, parmesan, nutmeg and an egg to hold it all together.

I have to say I really like the process of making gnocchi. My husband helps me, and we can get through a batch in about 20 minutes. We lay out the board his grandmother used to make her ravioli, put the batter between us, a little pile of flour in front of each of us and a spoon to dig out the batter. We make balls about the circumference of a nickel, then set them on a floured baking sheet to dry out.

We've made it many times since then, and here's my secret - really good broth. I usually use some of my own chicken stock. If I don't have enough (I use about six cups), I'll add some Swanson's organic chicken or vegetable broth. It's not even worth making if you aren't going to use a really good broth. I have had gnocchi in restaurants in with brown butter and sage, which was quite good, so I'll try that sometime too.

One of the best things about gnocchi is how easy it is to freeze. My recipe makes about 120 or so gnocchi, so we eat some (about 15 per person per serving), then I freeze the uncooked gnocchi in batches of 30 by wrapping them in freezer plastic then putting them in a quart-sized ziploc. They need about three hours to completely thaw and dry out, but it's an easy Sunday or Friday night supper. I also re-use the broth I cook them in; I just freeze whatever's left and label it as gnocchi broth because it's always got bits of cheese and spinach in it. When I go to thaw it, I know I have to strain it to get the bits out, but it's got a nice flavor to it.

I thought adding some fried sage would be a good touch, but I'd never done that before. I checked my vegetarian cook book and found some directions. So I brought some oil to a high heat in a little saute pan, and dropped some leaves into the oil. I'm guessing I didn't let the oil get hot enough or maybe I just left them in the oil too long, but they were just disgusting and went straight down the garbage disposal. I love fried sage, so I'm going to have to figure this out!

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