Friends, you'll be glad to know that Alice is an enthusiastic eater. I'd venture to guess that sitting down at the table is one of her top five favorite things; along with using the printer as a drum set, opening and closing the dishwasher soap tray, shimmying and shaking to So Glad I'm Here, and thumbing through Pat the Bunny. So far she's liked everything we've given her. Okay, that's not quite true, she doesn't like plain yogurt, but I don't know many people who do, so we'll just sideline that one for now. She is not a dainty eater. She uses her fingers to rake food into her fist where it makes a quick trip to her already open mouth and, along with most of her hand, disappears. We gave up on the spoon a while ago. You would too if it became a constant tug of war. She prefers to feed herself, and although I spend way too much time cleaning the floor - anyone have a dog we can borrow at mealtime? - it suits us just fine. I could go on and on about feeding Alice, how I like that she chooses what she wants, that she paces herself, how it's good for her dexterity and hand eye coordination, that I love the face she makes when she tries something new, but let's leave that for another post and chat about spinach gnocchi instead.
These little green globes are our current favorite thing to eat. Zach even went so far to say that he likes gnocchi night better than homemade-tortilla taco night. I might be with him on that. And Alice is definitely on board; the little goober ate all eight of her gnocchi before I even had a chance to snap a few photos and serve myself. In trying to come up with words besides "awesome" to describe them, all I keep thinking is "gentle". And that they are, soft and delicate, with a melt in your mouth quality. We can thank the ricotta for that. Ricotta pillows laced with spinach and parmesan. If it's the ricotta that lends the airy texture then it's the parmesan that brings the depth and richness. The gnocchi are so flavorful that they could be eaten alone, but I toss them in a simple sage butter sauce, because I like the earthy flavor it brings. I think Alice would tell you she likes the earthiness too considering she ate a nice big handful of dirt yesterday.
Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi - Marcella Hazan
note : I have made these gnocchi four times. This last time was the best, and funny enough I used frozen spinach. I tend to shy away from frozen ingredient substitutions as I prefer the fresh stuff, but frozen is what I had on hand and they turned out beautifully. I think it might be because you can get exact weights on the frozen, and with the fresh it's a bit of a guessing game - do you weigh pre or post stem? Know that they are good with fresh spinach, but me mindful of the amounts/ratio.
another note: The recipe calls for prosciutto, but I never have that on hand so I've skipped it all four times. Feel free to include it, I bet it's good.
450 g / 1 lb fresh spinach
285 g / 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed
25 g / 1 oz butter
1 tablespoon finely chopped onion
2 tablespoons chopped prosciutto
150 g / 5.5 oz ricotta
75 g / 2.5 oz flour
2 egg yolks
115 g / 4 oz freshly grated parmesan cheese
If using fresh spinach, trim away all stems and clean it in a few changes of water. Put the barely damp spinach in a pan with 2 teaspoons of salt, cover the pan, and turn the heat to medium. Cook for 5 minutes. Drain it and squeeze out as much water as you can. Chop it coarsely and set aside.
If using thawed frozen spinach, cook in a covered pan for 5 minutes. Drain it and squeeze out as much water as you can. Chop it coarsely.
Melt the butter in a small skillet. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent. Add the chopped prosciutto if using and stir to coat. Stir in the spinach with a bit of salt and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
Turn the spinach-onion mixture out into a large bowl. Allow it to cool and in the meantime measure your other ingredients. Once it has cooled to room temperature stir in the egg yolks, followed by the ricotta, flour, and parmesan. Taste and correct for salt.
Next, form small balls out of the mixture. It will be sticky, but you should still be able to roll it - stickily - in your hands, if not, add a touch more flour. Hazan recommends 1/2 inch across, but says you can stretch to 3/4 inch if that is easier, and I think our gnocchi were closer to 3/4 than 1/2. Do what works for you.
Drop the gnocchi, about 10 at a time, into salted, boiling water. When the water returns to boil cook for 3-4 more minutes. With the first batch taste one after 3 minutes to know if they are done or of you should extend to 4 minutes. I found that 4 minutes was perfect with this last round. When the last batch of gnocchi goes in the pot, start your sauce.
Sage Butter Sauce
75 g / 2.5 oz butter
6-8 whole sage leaves
parmesan cheese for sprinkling
Melt the butter in s small skillet over medium heat. When the foam subsides, and the color of the butter becomes golden, but not brown, add the sage leaves. Cook for a few seconds, turning the leaves over once, and then pour over your pasta.