Monday, July 2, 2012

Walden and Ricotta Gnocci

Perfect weather for the kids' inaugural trip to Walden Pond.  

It's like they weren't trying to kill each other in the car 5 minutes before this

We walked about halfway around the lake to a private little spot, which was awesome in that we had it to ourselves pretty much the whole morning.

taking a break from swimming to take a little stroll

on the rubble next to the Thoreau house

Dinner was a modified Ricotta and Spinach gnocchi recipe.  I'd like to say that these were light and pillowy.  They weren't super dense and chewy, but they could have been fluffier.  I think that a) they needed to be cut smaller, b) they needed slightly less flour and c) they needed to boil about one minute longer.  I've made these modifications in the recipe, so if anyone wants to try it and let me know how it goes, that'd be swell.  

Ricotta Gnocchi
1 15 oz container low-fat ricotta
1 egg
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. grated parmesan, plus more for the top
1 1/2 c. flour, plus more for kneading
tomato sauce 

Mix the ricotta, egg, salt and parmesan together well.  Then add flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until it forms a dough.
Turn the dough onto a floured counter and knead until pliable and soft and not too sticky, but not too dry either.*
Cut the dough into 4 pieces and, on a floured counter again, roll each piece out until it's a rope about an inch thick.
imagine that there were pictures earlier.  I keep forgetting.

Cut each dough rope into pieces about the length of your first knuckle (or 1/2 inch in case you have freakishly large fingers, or are some kind of cooking orangutang.) 
Gently press on each dumpling with the tines of a fork, making a four-stripe indentation* (I have no idea why this step exists, but it was in the original recipe, so I did it, so here it is.  You could probably live on the wild side and be indentation-less, but it's up to you).
Lightly grease an 8X10 glass dish and coat the bottom with tomato sauce (yes, from a jar.)  
my nicely indented gnocchi just waiting to be boiled alive

Preheat the oven to broil.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and heavily salt it.  Once the water is boiling, drop the dumplings in gently one at a time until you've added 1/2 the gnocchi.  They'll sink to the bottom, but as they cook, they'll rise.  Once they've risen, cook for 3 more minutes, then ladle them out with a slotted spoon into the tomato sauce.
Repeat the boiling and ladling with the second half of the gnocchi.*
Top with as much extra parmesan cheese as you desire, and broil for a couple of minutes to heat the sauce and brown the cheese. 

(You can make the sautéed spinach as this is happening).

*This recipe seems like a lot of work because there are so many steps.  But they were all really easy and, wherever there's a little * you could stop, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until the next day and just pick up where you left off.  So it's a good make ahead meal if you don't want to tackle it all at once.

Sautéed Spinach
The trick is to use about 2 tbsp more oil than you think you should.  

One extra large bag of baby spinach
4-5 tbsp olive oil
sea salt

In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over high heat until very hot, then toss in the baby spinach all at once.  Turn with tongs to coat evenly and cook on high heat until the spinach is entirely wilted, but no more.  Season generously with sea salt. 
(This whole process should take no more than 5 minutes)

Dinner is served!  (Look, no one likes it when that yucky spinach juice runs into everything else on the plate)

Don't let this picture fool you.  She ate most of it, but informed me that she liked the gnocchi from the store better.  And liked it better with pesto.  I should have taken a picture of the child who ate it all and asked for seconds, but no such luck.

1 comment:

  1. i love gnocchi. the ridges, btw, are there to hold sauce. on their own, gnocchi are kinda flat and shiny, and don't hold onto sauce well. the ridges assist in that. i want to make pasta now myself... :) gnocchi would be perfect finger-pasta for my 1 year old, who loves to feed herself, but thinks a spoon is just for waving around.