My page turning stopped when I saw them: Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings in Donna Hay The New Classics. “Dumpling” says puffy and tender to me, but these looked crispy, glistening with browned butter in a cast iron pan. I had to make them.
While poking around on the internet, I learned that these dumplings are a variation of the Italian gnocchi. Like many traditional recipes, people make versions with ingredients they have at the ready: potato, ricotta, corn meal, chestnut flour, even stale bread. Check out this Saveur article for more info, including the disappearing gnocchi trick that has refined cooking skills for hundreds of years.
I learned several critical techniques after watching my first batch of dumplings disintegrate in their boiling water bath: use enough flour to bind everything together (but the least amount possible so they stay tender not leaden) and gentle-gentle cooking, nothing like “boiling” as my book’s recipe instructed. I turned to Mark Bittman of the New York Times for some help. His video on the subject is well worth the three minutes run time.
Amy’s Kitchen Coach Tips:
- Fresh farmstead ricottas taste much better than mass-produced big brand versions. I love the sheep’s milk ricotta from Tucker Farmily Farms here in Montana.
- Serve simply with a browned butter and sage, or with a fresh tomato salsa as in the Donna Hay original recipe (cherry tomatoes, vinegar, olive oil, mint leaves, and optional anchovies)
- Refrigerate the dough up to a few hours ahead of cooking if you have the time. This will help firm the dumplings before cooking, helping you get away with even less flour in the dough.
- 8 ounces fresh, whole milk ricotta
- 5 ounces spinach wilted with a couple teaspoons olive oil
- 3 ounces Parmesan, finely shredded (heaping 1/2 cup)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus a couple tablespoons more for forming the dumplings)
- 2 eggs
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- for cooking: 3 tablespoons unsalted butter and several fresh sage leaves, if you'd like
- Wilt the spinach by heating 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the spinach and turn frequently with tongs until limp, a couple minutes is all it takes. Remove from heat and transfer spinach to a colander or sieve. Press out and discard as much liquid as possible. Transfer spinach to cutting board and rough chop it.
- Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium-high heat then add about a tablespoon of salt. Reduce heat to maintain a slow simmer.
- In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, chopped spinach, Parmesan, flour, eggs, a pinch of salt and several grinds of black pepper. Mix to combine, it should form a sticky dough.
- Sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour on a dinner plate. Make a tester dumpling: scoop out a rounded tablespoon of dough, roll it in the flour, then drop it into the slowly simmering pot of water. If the dumpling disintegrates, scoop out the mess (toss it), and add a bit more flour to your remaining dough. Form the dumplings by rounded tablespoon and gently roll them in the flour on the plate.
- Cook the dumplings about six at a time by dropping them into the slowly simmering pot of water. They will sink on entry, and rise as they cook. Remove them with a slotted spoon after about 4 minutes and transfer to a clean plate or other holding zone.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a frying pan set over medium-high heat. When the butter turns golden brown, add the optional sage leaves. Add the boiled dumplings to the browned butter and cook, turning once, until golden brown on each side. Serve on hot plates and pass more Parmesan.