Meatless Monday: Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi
Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?
Much like risotto, gnocchi often strikes fear into the hearts of home cooks. It's complicated, we think, requiring too many time-consuming steps: Baking the potatoes, mashing them up and finally kneading the fluffy stuff into a dough that we hope — with crossed, flour-stained fingers — doesn't become stiff and gummy. But as Extra Virgin hosts Debi and Gabriele prove again and again, Italian classics don't always require a full day at the stove. In the time it would take to roast a few potatoes, you can have this alternative no-stress five-star gnocchi — loaded with spinach and Parmesan — ready for the dinner table. By swapping out spuds for ricotta cheese, their recipe saves on prep time, but still yields the same puffy, light texture that these dumplings are known for. Top the pillowy nuggets with sage-butter sauce for a deceptively luxurious meal that leaves you plenty of time to master the rest of Nonna's recipes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring a large pot salted water to a boil.
Cut the stems off the spinach, and soak the leaves in the sink. Wash them thoroughly.
Add the spinach to the boiling water and cook 1 minute. Remove spinach from the water and plunge in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
Drain the spinach very well, and using a clean tea towel, squeeze out the extra water. Chop the leaves very fine.
Put the cooked spinach in a large bowl, add the ricotta, 3 tablespoons Parmesan, egg yolks, and season with a couple pinches salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Mix well, and make sure that the ricotta crumbles into fine pieces, and mixes properly with the spinach. Shape the mixture into balls about the size of walnuts.
Lightly butter a 13 by 9-inch casserole dish, lay all the gnocchi in it, and dress it with a few very thin slices butter and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Cook the gnocchi at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes, and then use the broiler for the last 5 minutes to crisp and brown the top of the spinach balls.
In a medium skillet, melt the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons butter, and saute the sage until it starts to brown. Serve the gnocchi on a warm plate and dress with the sage-butter sauce, and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan.