The sweet spinach of spring heralds a growing season of bountiful greens. It is the time of year when the herbs are most tender too so the pleasing combination of spinach and herbs is a natural result. Chopped and stirred into risotto, or just rice, or here, made into plump gnocchi, the greens embody the freshness of spring and the way they’re prepared is comfort food for a transitional season. I served them simply, dressed with reduced cream infused with herbs.
Gnocchi are not hard to make. It takes a little courage not to add more flour when shaping the logs, but a light touch and the use of the refrigerator to firm them will result in a less doughy consistency. Also, since this recipe includes ricotta, the gnocchi tend to be lighter than the flour and potato variety. If you have leftover dough, you can cut it into slices and freeze the pieces singly on a plate or tray, storing them in a plastic bag when thoroughly frozen. Cook them from their frozen state.
About 1½ lb spinach (a large bunch, yielding 1 c of chopped cooked leaves)
2 tsp finely snipped mint
1 tsp finely snipped chives
1 tsp finely snipped lovage
2 egg yolks
1/2 c ricotta cheese
½ c grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 c flour plus more for rolling
Pinch of salt if needed (Parmesan is salty)
Sauce: 3 tbsp heavy cream and 1 tsp herbs, or just butter
Prepare the spinach. Wash the spinach well in abundant water to remove any sand or grit. Remove the stems. Wilt it in a large pan over medium-high heat, in the water that clings to the leaves. Remove the drain and cool. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop finely.
Combine the spinach and herbs.
Lightly beat the egg yolks and add the grated cheese and ricotta, mixing well. Add the flour and the spinach-herb mixture, combining well. Roll into logs about ½-3/4 inch thick, coating with flour as you go. Place the gnocchi on a plate in the refrigerator to firm up for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to cook, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cut the dough into 1-inch lengths, shaping them with a fork (this is traditional with potato gnocchi since you want the grooves to catch the sauce, but is not necessary here). Working in batches, place the gnocchi in the boiling water and let them cook until they rise to the surface. Remove to a warm bowl. Repeat.
Meanwhile, bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small pan and let it reduce for a few minutes. Add the herbs and let it infuse for a few minutes. Spoon over the gnocchi to coat.