Friday, March 27, 2015

Spinach and Cheese Gnocchi: Pretty Green Pillows of Cheesy Goodness

These light and fluffy gnocchi are not quick to make- I won't lie to you- but at least the sauce is. Anyway, sometimes it's nice to just hang out in the kitchen and get your hands into the food, right?

(By the way, you really need a food processor for this recipe.)


8 to 10 ounces of fresh spinach, or one cup of defrosted frozen spinach.
10 ounce packet of Queso Fresco Mexican cheese (or ricotta if you can't find this)
1 egg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon tarragon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup semolina pasta flour (regular or gluten free flour blend would work fine also)
extra flour for dusting

For Tomato Sauce:

1 slice of bacon
1 Tablespoon olive oil 
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
2 heaping Tablespoons of tomato paste
zest of one lemon
1/3 cup water
a splash of light sweet wine or dry sherry, if you have it
salt and pepper
a scattering of almond slices
Pecorino Romano cheese, to taste

First, saute your spinach with a little water, just to get it all wilted, then let it cool and squeeze most of the water out. You should have about a cup, but it doesn't actually have to be super exact. Add it to the food processor with all of the other ingredients, EXCEPT the flour. Once it's mashed up properly, then add the flour, and just mix that in gently with a spoon, but don't over-mix. If your spinach was watery or you had to use regular ricotta for the cheese, you may need to add a little extra. It should look like this: 

Next, you make the gnocchi by flouring your hands and forming them into little pillow shapes. Make them each about a half tablespoon sized, and handle them very gently, the dough is quite sticky so you really need to roll them in the flour to make this happen. 

Set them all on a plate and put them in the refrigerator for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight.

When you're ready, to cook the gnocchi, put them in boiling salted water and when they float, they're done. It only takes a few minutes, just like with regular potato gnocchi. 

For the sauce, chop up the bacon slice in very tiny pieces and saute them in the olive oil on medium heat in a big frying pan until they look mostly crisp. Add the onion and salt and pepper, and saute another two minutes. If you are using the wine, add it before you add the tomato paste, letting it mostly evaporate before adding the tomato paste and water. Mix it all up and let it cook for another few minutes, or until the sauce looks nice and thick (then taste it for salt and pepper- depending on your bacon you may or may not need more.) Add the almonds and lemon zest last, as well as a splash of the cooking liquid from the gnocchi if you need it to thin out your sauce, and then pour the gnocchi in the pan, and toss them gently in the sauce using a soft rubber spatula so they don't get damaged. 

Generously grate Pecorino Romano cheese on top. Yes, this is a cheese fiesta, so don't eat all this by yourself, this should serve four along with a nice salad and some crusty baguette. 

You can also just serve these with plain browned butter, onions, almonds, lemon zest and extra pepper if you want, you'll appreciate the spinach flavor even more.