If you love cookbooks as much as me, you probably have one you’ve held onto for years but have only used to make one recipe. That’s how I feel about The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine by Rose Eliot, a cookbook I’ve had for more than two decades. I look at it and think, why do I keep this if I only use it for one recipe? And, since I love that recipe so much, why don’t I try more of them?
And then I make the spinach gnocchi, put the book back on the shelf and go through the same thing again the next time.
I tried the spinach gnocchi years ago and it was such a hit it became something of a special occasion dinner when the girls were young. Kara, my middle daughter, loves all things Italian and asked me to make it a few months back. It was a busy time—oh hell, they’re all busy times around here—and for some reason, I’d built it up in my mind that they took a long time to make. So I told her I couldn’t pull those off and made something else.
Kara moved to Seattle because her fiancé lives there and came home recently to be in yet another wedding. She’s the first of our daughters to be engaged, but the last of her friends to be married and has been to so many weddings over the past year and a half.
It’s been a long time since it’s been just the five of us for dinner, so I asked Kara if she had any special requests. She said, “Oh, just lasagna or something like that,” but I was feeling energetic and decided to take on the gnocchi as a surprise.
As a bonus, I invited one of my favorite neighborhood munchkins, 10-year-old Kate, over to help roll and pinch. Kate is a lovely, exuberant 30 year old in a 10 year old’s body. She reminds me so much of Garnie at that age.
It was so simple that I wondered why I ever thought it was difficult. These are northern Italian dumplings—they don’t include potatoes and don’t have that light, pillowy taste. But they are still so delicious … especially when covered in browned butter and Parmesan.
- 1 ½ pounds fresh spinach cooked, drained and chopped, or 1 pound frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- ½ pound mozzarella, grated, or other skim-milk soft white cheese
- 1 ½ cups flour
- 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs beaten
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- Extra flour for coating
- A little butter
- Grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
1. Drain the spinach, then puree it in a blender or food processor. Put the puree into a saucepan and dry it over the heat for a minute. Remove from the heat.
2. In a bowl, mix together the mozzarella cheese, flour, Parmesan cheese, eggs, and spinach. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. If the mixture is very soft, put it into the refrigerator to firm up for about 30 minutes.
3. Roll heaped teaspoons of the mixture in a little flour. (All this can be done in advance.)
4. To cook the gnocchi, first heat the oven to low, to keep the gnocchi warm as they’re ready. Half-fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water and bring just to a boil.
5. Drop 6-8 gnocchi into the water and let them simmer very gently for about 5-10 minutes, until the float to the surface.
6. Make sure the water does not get beyond a bare simmer, and remove the gnocchi as soon as they are ready, or they may fall apart.
7. Drain the gnocchi well, then put them into a warmed serving dish, dot with a little butter and keep them warm while you cook another batch.
8. When all the gnocchi are done, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese and serve immediately.