Gnocchi Verdi di Patate

Green Potato Gnocchi

One way to make green gnocchi is to combine spinach and ricotta, as described in The Classic Italian Cook Book, page 200. In that recipe the spinach is sautéed with onion, butter, and mortadella. Another method, popular in Venice and particularly light and fresh, simply combines chopped, cooked spinach with basic potato gnocchi dough.

The choice of potatoes for the dough is critically important, just as it is in making plain gnocchi. Mealy, baking potatoes or moist, new potatoes must be avoided: Use only old boiling potatoes. If the temptation to add eggs to the dough comes your way, resist it. It is the presence of eggs that makes potato gnocchi heavy, lumpish, excessively chewy. Proper gnocchi must be light and fluffy.

The best sauce to use is a simple, fragrant tomato sauce such as the one. Even more simply, toss the gnocchi with butter and a generous amount of choice freshly grated Parmesan. Or gratinate them thus: Cook and drain the gnocchi and put them in a flameproof serving dish; dot with butter, sprinkle liberally with Parmesan, and place them under a hot salamander or a grill for just the time it takes for the cheese to begin to melt. Don’t keep them too long under the flame or the gnocchi will turn to mush.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh spinach
  • Salt
  • 2 pounds boiling potatoes
  • 2 cups flour

Method

  1. Trim and wash the spinach as described. Do not chop it.
  2. Put the spinach in a pot with just the water that clings to its leaves and 1 tablespoon of salt. Cover the pot and turn on the heat to medium. Cook the spinach until quite tender.
  3. When done, drain it and, as soon as it is cool, squeeze all the liquid you can out of it by twisting the leaves inside a dry towel. Chop the spinach very fine. Use a knife because a food processor would liquefy it.
  4. Wash the potatoes, put them in a pot with ample water to cover, put a lid on the pot, and turn on the heat to medium. Boil the potatoes until tender enough for a fork to pierce them easily.
  5. Drain the potatoes, peel them as soon as you are able to handle them, and mash them through a food mill using the disk with the narrowest holes.
  6. Knead the potatoes and spinach together with cup of the flour and a pinch of salt. Knead just long enough to amalgamate all the ingredients uniformly, stopping when the mixture is smooth, but still soft and sticky.
  7. Dust your work surface with flour and shape the potato and spinach mixture into sausagelike rolls about 1 inch thick. Cut the rolls into ¾-inch lengths.
  8. At this point, the gnocchi are shaped exactly as directed in the recipe for basic potato gnocchi in The Classic Italian Cook Book (page 195). I find I cannot describe the procedure now more clearly than I did then, so I will repeat it here.

    The technique is more complicated to explain than it is to execute. At first, just go through the motions of the step until you have understood them. Then start on the gnocchi, but without losing heart if the first few do not turn out quite right. You will soon acquire the knack and do a whole mess of gnocchi in 2 or 3 minutes. In working with gnocchi, remember that it will make your life much easier if you use flour to dust repeatedly the gnocchi, your hands, and any surface you are working on.

    Take a fork with long, rounded, slim prongs. Working over a counter, hold the fork sideways—that is, with the prongs pointing either right to left or left to right—and with the concave side facing you. With the other hand, place a gnocco on the inside curve of the fork, resting it partly past the points of the prongs, pressing it against the prongs with the tip of your index finger, which should be pointing at and perpendicular to the fork. While pressing the gnocco, flip it away from the prong tips in the direction of the fork’s handle. Don’t drag it, roll it. As it rolls toward the base of the prongs, let it drop to the counter. Each gnocco should then be somewhat crescent shaped, with a ridge on one side formed by the prongs and a depression on the other side formed by your fingertip. This is not just a gratuitous decorative exercise. It serves to thin out the middle sections of the gnocchi so they can cook more evenly and to create little grooved traps on their surfaces for the sauce to sink into.

  9. To cook gnocchi, drop them, about 2 dozen at a time, into 5 quarts of boiling salted water. In a very short time they will float to the surface. Let them cook just 8 to 10 seconds more, then retrieve them with a slotted spoon or scoop and transfer to a warm platter. Season with some of the sauce you are using. Drop more gnocchi in the boiling water and repeat the procedure. For sauce suggestions, please refer to the introductory note on the preceding page.

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