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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