I don’t think I have proclaimed my love for everything italian emphatically enough. Well, that was an oversight, and it shall be corrected: I love everything italian. Yup, music, movies, food, wines, herbs, art, writers, the language, Fiat (give me a 500 convertible and I will marry you before you’ve had a chance to say buongiorno!), even Vespas are awesome, and if I didn’t have an irrational fear of motorcycles, I would definitely have one. Berlusconi is not my cup of tea, but then again there’s so many people there not liking him either! Right?
So, thinking «italian» and feeling a bit masochistic early in the morning, I turned my eye on my «Antonio Carluccio» collection. Signor Carluccio shares a birthday with my sister, so I feel connected to him in a strange cosmic way (which is weird to say today, of all days, on the day of Margherita Hack’s death, but I hope she’ll forgive me). A real cook-of-the-world, Antonio Carluccio has lived in Italy, Austria, Germany and ended up in England, where he still lives today. Like a true Italian, he has had some drama surrounding his life, but, hey, who hasn’t, right?
Going through my Antonio Carluccio’s Simple Cooking copy, I came across a recipe for green gnocchi, that is gnocchi with spinach. Mr. S is not really a spinach fan, but I promised he wouldn’t even notice it, and went on to make them.
Now, Italians will promise on their Gucci shirt that gnocchi is really easy to make: do not believe them. It may be for them, but if you’re making them for the first time, expect frustration, flour EVERYWHERE in the kitchen, two black cats turned white, a yelled-at boyfriend and a slightly-bigger-than-normal batch of gnocchi. That will blow. Your. Mind!
A couple of tips before you start: allow NO moisture in your gnocchi mixture than the absolute minimum. That means, let the potatoes cool a bit before you start making your mixture, and squeeze the spinach like your life depends on it. Trust me, you won’t be sorry!
So, let’s start:
For the gnocchi, you will need:
500gr floury potatoes
salt & pepper
For the sauce
1 garlic clove (I used two, because, well… I love garlic)
500gr canned tomatoes (I used whole tomatoes, because, well… I love them!)
6 basil leaves (ravage your herb plants – HEY! I hope you have herb plants!)
And the Joker said it best, when he said «Here. We. Go»
Boil the potatoes until they are soft. At the same time, boil the spinach, in some salted water. It shouldn’t take more than, say, 2 minutes to boil, so don’t go off making your nails or surfing the web – it will overboil and the world will come to an end. Or not, but still. When it is ready, squeeze the living daylights out of it. Keep squeezing, even when you think there is no more water in it (which will never happen, unless you have some magical powers, in which case, what are you doing torturing yourself like that? Hire a chef! Or hire me!).
Mash the potatoes, and your torture begins: Add the spinach, one egg, salt, pepper, and the flour. I added a tiny little bit of nutmeg, which was pretty nice, but if you want to stick to the original recipe, I won’t hold it against you. If it seems too sticky, add a little more flour, until you have a dough you can work with. Let me tell you, it took almost twice the flour and about an hour of trying to figure out what to do, until I got the dough right.
You will notice that I have no photos from this stage of the recipe. That was mainly due to the fact that my hands were covered in sticky green dough, and I almost reduced Mr. S to tears when he offered to snap a photo. Eventually, I made it, though, and boy, was I rewarded!
So, once you have your dough, cut out little pieces of it, roll them in a sausage-like shape and cut the gnocchi. Cut them small, like 1cm pieces or so, and, using your fork, make some indentations on them, so that the sauce sticks. When you’re done with that, throw them in some boiling water and wait a couple of minutes, until they rise up on the surface. When they do that, they’re ready. Take them out using a slotted spoon and, there you have it: Gnocchi verdi!
The sauce is fairly easy:
Cook the garlic in the oil, throw in the tomato, cook that for about 20 minutes, add the basil, cook a while longer, in order to incorporate the basil and, done!
Serve the gnocchi with the sauce, add the mozzarella and some parmesan if you want, and get ready for seconds! Even Mr. S had seconds (and then thirds…). Spinach, you are back in our lives (Hallelujah!!)