This is a recipe that is dear to my heart. I’m calling it Gnocchi Verdi per Papà (green gnocchi for Dad). It is adapted from a recipe taken from the book called Pasta by Hand by Jenn Louis. I chose this recipe because it is pretty much fool-proof! The story behind this choice is this: my father, who was Italian, loved to cook and made the best homemade pasta from scratch out of anyone I know personally. He preferred to make fettuccine and ravioli in particular though I suspect he made the ravioli mainly because those were our favourites. My last memory of cooking with him was when a couple of years ago I asked him to show me how to make gnocchi, which are my favourite pasta when made properly (i.e. not hard pellets that weigh heavily on the stomach but soft drops of deliciousness). It was a complete disaster because I had insisted on making them with sweet potato and spelt flour. Though he kept telling me it wouldn’t work, I insisted and ended up having to add too much flour to compensate for the sogginess of the sweet potato (I now know you need to dehydrate the potato as much as you can before using it). We had to throw out the whole batch and ended up making ravioli instead! When he passed away earlier this year, I took back a book on gnocchi I had given him as a present and vowed to him that I would learn to make them. This recipe has dairy and gluten, though you can make it with gluten-free options if you prefer since it actually doesn’t use a lot of flour. You can also make them with potatoes instead of ricotta which will make them a different type of gnocchi altogether – the more common basic gnocchi. However, it is the year-end and this recipe is for my father, so I’ve made them to be indulgent though they are easy! Per te Papà – c’e l’ho fatta!
- 340 g of Cavolo nero kale or an alternative like chard, ribs removed
- 15 g / 5 Tbsp Fresh bread crumbs – I used spelt bread crumbs
- 2 Eggs
- 285 g whole sheep’s milk ricotta cheese (note that “real” ricotta is usually made from sheep’s milk but you can use cow’s milk)
- 100 g Finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, plus extra for serving
- the zest of one lemon
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- salt and ground black pepper
- All-purpose flour for dusting – I used spelt flour here
- 2 to 3 Tbsp organic salted butter, melted (you can use unsalted if you prefer)
- Prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and cold water. Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the kale and blanch until tender, about 3 minutes. Remove immediately from the pot with tongs and transfer to the ice bath. When cool, drain the greens in a colander. Place the greens in a kitchen towel and wring until mostly dry. Finely chop and set aside.
- In the bowl of a food processor, process the bread crumbs until finely ground. Add the kale, eggs, ricotta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, lemon zest and some nutmeg and process until well combined. Season with salt and pepper. Scrape the mixture into a bowl.
- Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with flour. Scoop a heaping spoonful of the ricotta mixture with one teaspoon, and push it onto a prepared baking sheet with the back of a second teaspoon. With your hands, gently roll the gnocchi around in the flour to coat. Repeat with the remaining dough. Make sure that the gnocchi don’t touch or they will stick together.
- (To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, uncovered, for up to 2 days. Do not freeze these – they will break apart.)
- Bring another large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchi verdi and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Make sure to keep the cooking water at a simmer, since a rapid boil can break apart the gnocchi. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon to a serving platter or individual bowls. Drizzle with the melted butter and top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Serve right away.
- These are also delicious served with a basic fresh tomato and basil sauce, topped with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.
Photograph by Ed Anderson