Vetri Spinach Gnocchi

Vetri Spinach Gnocchi

After the success with Marcella Hazan's Potato Gnocchi I decided to try my hand at another gnocchi recipe that I've been hanging onto for more than a year. This one is Marc Vetri's famous Spinach Gnocchi with Shaved Ricotta Salata and Brown Butter.

I had this gnocchi at Vetri, Marc Vetri's flagship Philadelphia restaurant, and was blown away by the lightness and perfection of texture. These gnocchi weren't pillows, they were clouds. In fact, while the entire meal was delicious, the spinach gnocchi is the dish that holds most firmly in my memory, and the one I most longed to recreate at home.

This recipe starts with spinach, lots of spinach. After destemming two massive bunches of spinach, I realized I only had half of the requisite 2 1/2 pounds. So the recipe listed here is halved. One other substitution - I traded the Grana Padano for fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, since I always have it in my home. Other than that, the ingredient list and technique I followed came from the Vetri Cookbook, Il Viaggio di Vetri, but the instructions are really mine as I've adapted the recipe for my kitchen.

Vetri's Spinach Gnocchi with Shaved Ricotta Salata and Brown Butter
Serves 2 happily

1 1/4 pounds spinach, stems removed
1 large egg
1/4 cup AP flour, plus more for dusting
1/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese (use grana padano if you like)
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
3 tblsp unsalted butter
1/8 grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
1/8 pound piece of ricotta salata cheese

Clean and stem your spinach then blanch it in boiling, salted water for 3-4 minutes. Immediately place the blanched spinach in ice water to stop the cooking, then drain the spinach, squeezing out any excess water, and place in the bowl of a food processor. Process 5 minutes, until very smooth, then place in a strainer over bowl, cover, and refrigerate for overnight (I think Vetri says 15 hours) to drain off excess moisture.

Blanched spinach in the food processor.

After blending 5 minutes.

After draining overnight.

Side shot after draining.

The next day, when you are ready to make the gnocchi, measure your bread crumbs, flour, nutmeg and first portion of parmigiana (or grana padano) in a bowl and blend it with your egg and drained spinach. Vetri specifies to mix it with your hands, but I started with a fork and moved to a silicon spatula. Oddly enough, the final dough reminded me a bit of stiff macaron batter.

Dry ingredients in bowl.
With the egg and spinach mixed in.

Next, prepare a sheet pan with a layer of flour, transfer your dough into a piping bag (I used a big ziplock and cut out the corner) and pipe into dumplings about 3/4 inch long. Carefully roll your dumplings in flour. The dumplings are extremely delicate, so mine got a bit misshapen at this point.

Piped gnocchi
Rolled in flour

You then drop a batch of dumplings (after shaking off excess flou gently into boiling, salted water and cook about 2 minutes. Once they started floating I took a taste, they cook very quickly. As each batch finishes, place them onto a warmed serving plate and make your brown butter sauce.

Place the butter in a small saucepan and put it over medium heat until it begins to turn golden in color (think hazelnuts) then pull it off the heat. Sprinkle the gnocchi with the remaining parmigiano reggiano and shaved ricotta salata then pour the browned butter over the top. Time to eat.

I served mine with a grilled steak (yum) and the gnocchi were so good. Delicate, light, fluffy, with such a pure spinach flavor just melds perfectly with the cheese and butter. Delicious!

My only complaint is that while waiting for my steaks to finish, my gnocchi sat too long in the flour, so when they cooked, their exterior was lighter than I'd like, instead of the verdant green when you broke into them. It didn't affect their flavor or texture, but the presentation wasn't as lovely as I remember from the restaurant. I'll definitely be making again, and with a less time in the flour and a more delicate touch while rolling, I'm hoping to get my dumplings perfect looking next time. As far as my husband was concerned though, I am crazy and these puppies were perfect. No wonder I married the guy.

Spinach gnocchi and grilled New York Strip, one word, heaven.

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