One of my favorite restaurants (
possibly of all time) has to be Vetri, an intimate Italian restaurant in downtown Philadelphia. Reservations have to be made months in advance and although it costs a pretty penny, I can honestly say that I will never forget this meal.
Upon entering Vetri, you are handed a glass of chilled Prosecco before being led to your table. The meal starts with fresh crudites and a selection of house-cured meats. 4 1/2 hours later (yes, really) we were blissfully full. I felt like I needed a forklift to get myself out of there. Each course is carefully selected by the chef from a seasonal menu of tried and true dishes. Each guest receives 8 small plates – a mix of appetizers, fresh pasta, fish, meat, and desserts.
One dish that really stuck out in my mind was the spinach gnocchi. Incredibly flavorful and fresh, it’s a pasta dish that isn’t really pasta… It’s mostly spinach. 2 1/2 pounds to be precise. If you’ve ever sauteed spinach, you know that a whole bag can shrink to a measly portion in no time. The same principle applies here. So we have ultra concentrated spinach mixed with egg, cheese, some flour, and bread crumbs.
If I could eat pasta like this every day, I definitely would. So get crackin (eggs, that is) and try making this dish tonight. It might take permanent residence in your recipe box.
Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta Salata
(Adapted from Food and Wine)
2 1/2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed (skip if using baby spinach)
1/2 cup freshly grated Grana Padano cheese (1 ounce)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain, dry, fine bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and shaved ricotta salata, for serving
In a large pot of salted boiling water, blanch the spinach until tender, about 4 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Cool the spinach in a bowl of ice water, then drain and squeeze dry (REALLY squeeze here – I used a kitchen towel to get every last drop of liquid). Wipe out the pot, fill with water and bring to a gentle simmer.
Meanwhile, transfer the spinach to a food processor. Add 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid and puree until very smooth. You should have 1 cup of puree; add additional cooking liquid if needed.
Scrape the spinach puree into a large bowl and mix in the grated Grana Padano cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Stir in 1/4 cup of the flour to form a soft dough.
Spread the remaining 1 cup of flour in a pie plate and dust a large rimmed baking sheet with flour. Gently roll the gnocchi dough into 1-inch balls. Carefully roll the gnocchi in the flour, shake off the excess and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
Add salt to the simmering water. Add half of the gnocchi to the pot and cook until they rise to the surface, then simmer until cooked through, about 3 minutes (about 5 minutes total cooking time). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a platter. Cover loosely with foil. Repeat with the remaining gnocchi.
In a skillet, cook the butter over moderate heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Spoon the brown butter over the gnocchi. Top with Parmigiano and ricotta salata and serve.
This post was written by Natalie, our cheesemonger & latest addition to the Swarthmore Co-op team. Check out more on her blog Gourmet Gamine