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Gratinéed Ricotta and Spinach Gnocchi

In Florence, this type of gnocchi is called nudi, because it is similar to ravioli filling minus the pasta. These gnocchi are particularly delicate. If you think they might not hold their shape when they are boiled, make a test gnoccho and drop it into a saucepan of boiling water. If it breaks apart, add a little more flour to the remaining mixture. You can boil the gnocchi up to 3 hours in advance, then cover and refrigerate them until it is time to bake them. If they have been chilled, add 5 minutes or so to the baking time.  

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. spinach, stemmed and rinsed well 
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Sea salt, to taste, plus 2 Tbs.
  • 6 Tbs. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter 
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped 
  • 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese 
  • 1 3/4 cups grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg 
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup fine dried bread crumbs 

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine the spinach, water and a pinch of salt. Cover, place over medium heat and cook, stirring, until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain the spinach and let cool, then squeeze to extract the excess liquid. Finely chop the spinach and set aside.

In a small fry pan over medium heat, melt 2 Tbs. of the butter. Add the onion and sauté until tender and lightly golden, about 10 minutes. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the ricotta, 1 cup of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, the eggs and the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onion and spinach and stir well. Stir in the flour until well blended and a soft dough forms.

Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop up 1 Tbs. of the dough and, with dampened hands, lightly shape it into a ball 3/4 inch in diameter. Place the ball on one of the prepared baking sheets. Repeat with the remaining dough, making sure the balls don’t touch each other.

Bring a large pot three-fourths full of water to a rolling boil and add the 2 Tbs. salt. Position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 400°F. Grease a shallow 3-quart gratin or baking dish with 2 Tbs. of the butter.

Reduce the heat under the water so it is at a steady simmer. Carefully add half of the gnocchi to the pot and cook, stirring gently once or twice, until they rise to the surface, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to the prepared dish. Cook the remaining gnocchi in the same way and add them to the dish.

Cut the remaining 2 Tbs. butter into bits and dot the surface of the gnocchi evenly. Sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano and the bread crumbs. Bake until the butter is sizzling and the cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).