Spinach Gnocchi with Four Cheeses
Once again it's the Italians who are so clever at inventing such simple things out of what seem to be fairly ordinary ingredients but then become something quite outstanding. Thus it is with gnocchi – little dumplings made from potatoes, flour and egg. Not very exciting, you might think, but like real pasta made in the old-fashioned way, gnocchi have a texture and flavour of their own which can absorb and complement other flavours.
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This recipe is taken from Delia’s Vegetarian Collection.
First boil the potato, leaving the skin on, which will take about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, pick over the spinach, remove the stalks, then rinse the leaves. Place them in a large saucepan over a medium heat and cook briefly with a lid on for 1-2 minutes, until wilted and collapsed down. Then drain in a colander and, when cool enough to handle, squeeze all the moisture out and chop finely.
When the potato is cooked, drain and, holding it in a clean tea cloth, peel off the skin and sieve the potato into a bowl. Next add the spinach, ricotta, nutmeg and flour to join the potato, then beat the egg and add half, together with some seasoning. Now, gently and lightly, using a fork, bring the mixture together. Finish off with your hands and knead the mixture lightly into a soft dough, adding a teaspoonful or more of the beaten egg if it is a little dry. Then transfer the mixture to a floured surface and divide it into four.
Roll each quarter into a sausage shape approximately ½ inch (1 cm) in diameter, then cut it on the diagonal into 1 inch (2.5 cm) pieces, placing them on a tray or plate as they are cut. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 30 minutes, but longer won't matter.
After that, using a fork with the prongs facing upwards, press the fork down on to each gnocchi, easing it into a crescent shape, so that it leaves a row of ridges on each one. Now cover and chill the gnocchi again until you are ready to cook them.
To cook the gnocchi, have all the cheeses ready. Pre-heat the grill to its highest setting, then bring a large, shallow pan of approximately 6 pints (3.5 litres) of water up to simmering point and put the serving dish near the grill to warm through. Now drop the gnocchi into the water and cook them for 3 minutes; they will start to float to the surface after about 2 minutes, but they need an extra minute.
When they are ready, remove them with a draining spoon and transfer them straight to the serving dish. When they are all in, quickly stir in first the mascarpone and chives, then sprinkle in the Gorgonzola and Fontina, then add some seasoning and cover the whole lot with the grated Pecorino.
Now pop it under the grill for 3-4 minutes, until it is golden brown and bubbling.
Serve absolutely immediately on hot plates.
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Another treat for vegetarians: the simplicity of this cheap-to-make recipe belies the sheer pleasure in eating it. As so often with Italian food, it takes just a few ingredients to make something really special.
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Prepare the mixture the day beforehand and you'll enjoy lovely gnocchi with crisp edges and fluffy insides. Use vegetarian versions of the cheeses for a meat-free treat packed with flavours of Italy.
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