Marcella writes that 'the word gnocco in Italian means a little lump' and frankly many gnocchi that I have tried in the past were little more than lumps; not particularly appetizing. Lumps of glue-like dough that invariably weigh rather heavily in your stomach.
Or as I learned to say in Italy this last trip - porca miseria.
Poor Palma, tried her darnedest to teach me some Italian and THAT is all I brought back. *smile*
Then a couple of years ago Paul and I went to dinner in Florence at Osteria del Chinghiale Bianco with Palma and Brad. Palma ordered spinach and ricotta gnocchi and they were a revelation - light, fluffy, and bursting with flavour!
I was excited to be trying Marcella's version to see if I could duplicate those light balls of flavour at home.
Many people only think of potatoes when they think of gnocchi. They would be thinking narrowly. One should never think too narrowly when it comes to food.
This version is also known as naked ravioli because the gnocchi are essentially buttery mounds of ravioli filling. Gnocchi with ricotta cheese is much more forgiving than the potato version. The dough holds together better, and the result is likely to be more pillow-like than chewy.
You may have seen spinach ricotta gnocchi on restaurant menus before under a different name: strangolapreti or strozzapreti. This translates to "choke the priest". I love the livid food names in Italy! Of course, because nothing in Italy is simple, strozzapreti also refers to a thick, elongated pasta.
One has to wonder about this fascination with naming food after such things. Was there a series of accidental priest strangulations? Did the Medici resort to 'death by pasta' to dispatch those priests who dared threaten their edicts in Florence? We'll never know but the colourful food names sure can get the conversation going over dinner.
Marcella's gnocchi were a breeze to make. As always she provided a variety of things that the home cook could do to make the recipe as approachable as possible. Don't have bunches of spinach in your market? Use a box of frozen . . .
I also appreciated how she provided you with tips as to the best sauce to use. Since I had made the tomato and heavy cream sauce already I took her advice and served the gnocchi with that.
Once again Marcella helped me hit the ball out of the park (look at me using a sports metaphor - who knew?) . . . these gnocchi were the best! In fact, I believe that they might have been better than that memorable gnocchi we first snuck from Palma's plate back at White Boar in Florence!