I received Recipes From Americas Small Farms when I signed up for a Community Sponsored Agriculture Program (CSA). While it was theoretically for the purpose of helping me learn how to select, store and prepare some vegetables that I have never encountered before, it also contained some recipes for vegetables that I am very familiar with. I’ve never made gnocchi before, but I have enjoyed it at many restaurants, and I was intrigued by the way this recipe snuck a healthy leafy green like spinach into a classic, potato-based, pasta dish.
potatoes, flour, water, eggs, spinach, salt
Note: Do not use old potatoes. Old potatoes make gooey, slimy gnocchi.
This recipe has you boil the cubed potatoes until they are easily poked with a fork. You need to get these potatoes soft, so really make sure they feel like they can be mushed with a fork. Then, drain them and let them dry. It is crucial to get rid of the moisture, otherwise you will have to use extra flour resulting in dense gnocchi.
Meanwhile, I prepped the spinach. While you can use frozen spinach, I prefer to use fresh. I simply steam it until it is very soft. You will be surprised how a huge bunch of spinach reduces to a tiny ball after steaming. Be prepared for this “shrinkage”. Whatever type of spinach you use, squeeze out the water very thoroughly. I recommend first squeezing by hand and then squeezing with a paper towel.
The recipe recommends mashing the potatoes with a fork, however if you have a potato ricer that is even better. Then you slice up the spinach and add it as well as the egg and flour to form a dough. As usual, I elected to mix with my hands. When adding the flour, you basically need to keep adding until the dough is no longer sticky. Note that you may need to use more than the recipe calls for if your potato measurements are not exact. you’ll know it’s done when you can roll it into logs easily on a floured surface. The logs are then sliced into small gnocchi sized bits and rolled over the tines of a fork to produce the characteristic ridges on gnocchi. I usually skip the ridges step. It has no effect on taste and takes forever.
The gnocchi are then dunked into a pot of rapidly boiling water where they promptly sink. You know they are done when they float up to the top and you can skim them out and dry them on a paper towel. The only time my gnocchi did not rise was when I failed to add enough flour and they were just too sticky.
These are a lot of work – the rolling and then boiling take time. However, they taste great! They even look like the gnocchi you get in a restaurant. The spinach adds nutritional value and makes this dish a great way to trick children into eating a vegetable. I have made this more than once – a sure sign that the recipe has my stamp of approval.