Stinging Nettle Ricota Gnocchi, Butter Sauce

Stinging Nettle Ricotta Gnocchi

Stinging Nettles are available at Farmer’s Markets if you don’t have them growing wild where you live.  Be careful, they really do sting if you don’t wear gloves when handling them in their raw state but once blanched the sting is gone. When I made these dumplings the first time I used butter and cheese for the “sauce” but the second time I made a creamy tomato basil sauce that worked really well with the gnocchi.

Makes 24 large Gnocchi (3 or 4 per serving)

1 lb. fresh nettles, stems removed, washed, blanched, squeezed dry (see below)
15 oz. ricotta cheese, drained (see below)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano + more for baking if using
½ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Approx. 2 cups unbleached flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 – 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter + more for greasing baking dish
1 Tbsp. salt

Chop the blanched nettles very finely with a chef’s knife. Do not use a processor as it will produce too much liquid. Squeeze the chopped nettles to remove excel moisture; place the nettles in a large mixing bowl.

Add the ricotta, eggs, Parmigiano, nutmeg, salt and pepper; mix well. Start adding small amounts of flour, 4 or 5 Tbsp. at a time. The mixture should be soft, but not wet. If necessary, add a little more flour, in small amounts, as needed (the less flour added, the lighter the gnocchi). It depends on the amount of moisture in the nettles.

Preheat the oven to 375 F, generously butter an ovenproof serving dish into which the gnocchi can be place in one layer. Set aside.

Sprinkle a work surface with flour. Form little croquette-shaped (ovals) dumplings, about 2” long, roll them in a bit of the flour. Set aside on a rimmed baking sheet until all are finished. Do not handle too much as the gnocchi won’t be as light as they should be.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, add the 1 Tbsp. salt. When the water comes back to a boil, drop in 1/3 of the gnocchi. Boil until they float to the top. Cook until firm, 3 – 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander, let drain for a minute, then transfer to the greased baking dish. Continue cooling the remaining gnocchi in the same way. Dot the gnocchi with the butter and place in the oven, baking for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with more cheese and continue baking for another 5 minutes or so until golden.

OR: dot the gnocchi with butter, bake for 15 minutes or so, serve immediately with Tomato-Basil sauce.

Helpful Link to working with nettles Phyllis’ Good Things to Know.  And to blanch nettles, see Blanching Vegetables.

Note:  I highly recommend trying to find Italian ricotta cheese. Simply place the ricotta into a fine-meshed sieve, let drain over a bowl for an hour before making the gnocchi. You probably won’t get very much liquid but it’s a necessary step.  Or you can drain it for a few hours in the fridge.

Tomato Basil Sauce

1 – 28 oz. tin Italian plum tomatoes, crushed using your hands.   Crushed tinned tomatoes are far too thick for making the sauce.

4 Tbsp. EVO
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 large clove garlic, minced
6 – 8 large fresh basil leaves
¼ cup whipping cream

Heat the EVO in a large sauté pan over medium heat, until hot but not smoking, add the onions and sauté until softened, approximately 5 minutes; add the garlic, sauté for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, bring up to the boil, simmer for about 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Tear the basil leaves into pieces, add to the tomato sauce along with the cream, simmer for a few minutes, serve over the gnocchi.

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