Daring Cooks 1st Challenge – Ricotta Gnocchi with Spinach and Ramps Pesto

by Jenn on May 14, 2009

in Daring Kitchen,Dips and Sauces,Gluten Free,Pastas and Grains,Vegetarian

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The first Daring Cooks challenge to be announced was by Lis and Ivonne and featured a recipe from the cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant,The Zuni Café Cookbook.  This was a great recipe challenge, because I have tried to create gluten free gnocchi before, and failed miserably every time – that’s why all of my previous gnocchi posts are sadly not GF.  However, this gnocchi only uses flour for coating the outside.  None required actually within the pasta itself, which meant experimenting was minimal.  These were much lighter than their potato based cousins, I really liked them!

For this challenge (link to pdf recipe), it was a two day process.  The first day you had to hang the ricotta to let the liquid strain out, because gnocchi dough needs to be as dry as possible.  For this, I actually used fat free ricotta, because it tends to be drier than part skim or whole milk ricotta.  And then I balled up the ricotta in the cheesecloth, and twisted it so that I could squeeze a lot of liquid out first.  Might as well help it along, right?  I think because I did this, I did not actually have liquid straining out overnight.  The next day I squeezed it again to get more liquid out (sometimes doing it in a paper towel so that the paper towel would soak up moisture that wasn’t quite enough to drip out), and determined that was going to be as much as I was going to be able to do, and the ricotta ended up pretty dry.

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Next was actually rolling and forming the gnocchi once you had mixed the ingredients together (I threw in some parsley to the dough).  The directions had you just scoop out the gnocchi, form it into a round shape, and roll it in the flour.  I think they actually ended up a bit prettier by preparing them the traditional way – so I formed a large round ball out of the gnocchi dough, and sliced it into about 4 pieces.  Then each “slice” i rolled out like a snake with my hands on my floured surface, and then chopped about 3/4″ pieces  and rolled them against the back of my fork to create the distinctive gnocchi grooves.  I felt it was very important to have these grooves, because the point of gnocchi is to absorb the sauce that they are cooked in.  Those grooves are especially for trapping in sauce and yummy flavor.  This is why I did it this way instead.  These were much more delicate than traditional potato gnocchi, so I had to be very gentle, but it worked just fine.

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For the flour, it didn’t really matter what flour you used.  I used a 50/50 blend of tapioca and garbanzo bean flour, mostly because I never use garbanzo bean flour in anything and only had a little bit left that needed using up.  I really don’t think it would have mattered.  But I really wanted to shy away from rice flour here because rice flour does weird things in pasta.  I don’t know, but things just start looking a bit odd.

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The challenge did not dictate how the gnocchi would be served, just that the dish would include these gnocchi.  Given that I had just collected some ramps (if you don’t know what ramps are, see my post about an Appalachian classic), I decided to create a ramp/spinach pesto in a brown butter sauce and sauteed the cooked gnocchi.  Mmmm!  Here is the recipe for the sauce:

Ingredients:
1/2 – 3/4 cups ramps, chopped
1/2 – 3/4 cups spinach, chopped
1/8 cup toasted pine nuts
2 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup parmesean cheese, grated
salt & pepper
4 tbs. butter

Directions:
1. Pulse ramps, spinach, pine nuts, lemon juice, parmesean and salt & pepper in a food processor until it looks pesto like.  Traditional pesto adds in EVOO as well, but since I was going to use the butter, I figured there was no need.  Traditional pesto also is basil.  So clearly I don’t care about tradition today.
2. In a small skillet, melt the butter on med  to med-high.   Gently tilt the skillet to swirl it as it heats, so that it doesn’t splatter but instead ends up turning a golden brown.  This takes a couple of minutes.
3. Add in the pesto. Let saute for about a minute.
4. Add in the cooked gnocchi.  Not sure that it is critical to cook them first, but these were so delicate I did not want to handle them much in the skillet.  So I put them in, waited 30s – 1 min., and then turned them, so they were just starting to brown.
5.  Then, dish and serve!

Overall, this was a total success for my first Daring Cook’s Challenge!

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{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

Joelen May 14, 2009 at 6:04 am

I’ve made ricotta gnocchi before and I like them better than the traditional ones made with potatoes. This spinach & ramps pesto looks great! Kudos for your first DC challenge!

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Ellie May 14, 2009 at 1:14 pm

This looks delicious – I love gnocchi!! I need to try making them with ricotta.

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Olga May 14, 2009 at 2:03 pm

Your gnocchi look absolutely gorgeous. And I like that you put your own spin on pesto!

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Chris May 14, 2009 at 2:22 pm

I adore ricotta gnocchi – so much easier than the potato kind (I do want to try the semolina kind one of these days though).

Looks fabulous! Wish I had known about this challenge earlier – it’s one of my favorite dishes! :)

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Patty May 14, 2009 at 3:15 pm

That looks so great – and much easier than regular gnocchi. Great job! I love ricotta gnocchi too.

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BMK May 14, 2009 at 3:30 pm

This looks spectacular! I need to branch out and try ramps.

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anjelikuh May 14, 2009 at 4:43 pm

yummmm, adding pesto is genius! Great job on the challenge!

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Singing Horse May 14, 2009 at 7:42 pm

I love the pesto idea. Very pretty picture! Congratulations!

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Charmian Christie May 14, 2009 at 8:45 pm

The bright green pesto looks beautiful. Your results were much better than mine. Well done!

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CRUISNDIVA May 15, 2009 at 12:22 am

Great job, your gnocchi looks delicious! I had never heard of Ramp before, you’ve taught me something new!

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Lauren May 15, 2009 at 1:01 am

Yum!! Your gnocchi look amazing, and I love the pesto =D.

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Cheri May 15, 2009 at 1:04 am

Your Gnocchi look great! I was scared to form them the traditional way because I thought I might ruin them. But, I am happy to see that you were able to with success. I do like the look of the more traditional Gnocchi and the idea of the grooves to catch the sauce. I love the idea of pesto as well. Looks delish!

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Suzy May 15, 2009 at 1:06 am

Your sauce has a gorgeous color! I have just recently learned what ramps are. Wish I had a patch behind my house! lol Great job.

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lisamichele May 15, 2009 at 1:24 am

Beautiful pesto and perfect gnocchi!! You rocked this challenge, great job!

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Audax Artifex May 15, 2009 at 3:09 am

You formed the gnocchi so well and the pesto is a good choice. Never hear of ramps what is it? Wonderful job on this first challenge. Cheers from Audax in Australia

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Margie May 15, 2009 at 3:26 am

Thanks so much for the ramps & spinach pesto recipe. Looks amazing. Sounds like a great pairing with the riccota gnocchi. Your photo makes me want a plate of your gnocchi NOW! I’m also a big fan of Michael Pollan’s books. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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Barbara May 15, 2009 at 4:07 am

Your gnocchi look so pretty. Great job!

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Elle May 15, 2009 at 4:50 am

Beautiful gnocchi and so spring green with the ramps pesto! Yay for the first Daring Cooks challenge!!

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Arundathi May 15, 2009 at 5:57 am

That is definitely a success! Its great that they were firm enough to be rolled into a rope! Love the photos and the green is gorgeous.

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Erushi May 15, 2009 at 7:28 am

Your gnocchi looks gorgeous. You did a wonderful job shaping them. And pesto! It must have tasted brilliant.

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Esther May 15, 2009 at 11:50 am

Yours looks really fresh and yummy with that sauce !

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Lori May 15, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I love the spinach and ramps idea- very tastey I am sure. I thinking squeezing the ricotta was avery good idea. I got a lot to drip out but I think that would have helped it along a bit more.

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Natashya May 15, 2009 at 1:00 pm

They look absolutely delicious, and I love the bright green pesto with them. Lovely!

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Ariane May 15, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Those look beautiful! This gives me something to do with that ricotta I bought to try your Choco-almond-ricotta breakfast :-)

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Megan May 15, 2009 at 1:46 pm

Wow. Yours look gorgeous. I guess the squeezing of the ricotta really does help! And that pesto looks so refreshing.

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Valerie May 15, 2009 at 3:01 pm

The grooves make your gnocchi look so pretty! And I did not know what ramps were, so thank you for the information! Congratulations on your challenge!

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Recette bio May 15, 2009 at 3:43 pm

It looks great :D

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nico May 15, 2009 at 4:29 pm

Hi, I liked the gnoochi, looks delicious

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giz May 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm

Wow – a total success for you and I love the whole idea of ramp pesto with it – just a hint of garlic – fabulous

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DJM May 15, 2009 at 9:57 pm

Your gnocchi are just so pretty! I thought about trying to groove mine, but chickened out.

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chickiedoodle May 16, 2009 at 12:36 am

Groovy!

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Kanella May 27, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I made the ramps pesto and served it with fresh pasta. Thanks so much for the inspiration as the dish was truly delicious.

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Jenn May 15, 2009 at 3:59 am

Thanks! I had a lot of fun with this challenge!

Ramps are native to N. America, they are also referred to as a “wild leek” – they appear all over in the midwest in the springtime, I have some pics of them in one of my other posts.

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