Recipe Swap: Readers answer call for gnocchi recipe

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Last week I had a recipe request from Tracey Tripp of Cape Girardeau for recipes using gnocchi. She enjoys the chicken gnocchi dish at Olive Garden, and she would like to make it at home, as well as other recipes using gnocchi. Gnocchi are small potato dumplings that are easy to make from scratch, or can be purchased locally at any large supermarket. Alone they do not have much taste, but they take on any flavors they are combined with. Thanks to everyone who sent in recipes to help Tracey with her request.

Chicken Gnocchi Varonese

Martha Maxton of Cape Girardeau sent me a recipe for chicken gnocchi Veronese that she found on the Olive Garden website. The picture is pretty, and the dish is easy to make, especially when you purchase the gnocchi already made.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small Vidalia onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, sliced (julienned)

1/2 zucchini, sliced (julienned)

Salt, to taste

4 chicken breasts, sliced in 1/2-inch strips

2 small branches rosemary

1 garlic clove, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Varonese sauce:

1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

14 ounces heavy cream

For gnocchi:

2 quarts water

6 ounces flour

2 eggs

2 pounds russet potatoes

2 teaspoons salt

OR

1 pound gnocchi (potato dumplings), cooked according to package directions

You may make your own gnocchi by following the steps below, or you may purchase them already made.

For the gnocchi:

Wash potatoes and place in water. Cook potatoes until soft (cook time will depend on size of potatoes). Remove potatoes from water and cool in refrigerator. Peel cooled potatoes and push them through a fine grater (rice grater, ricer) until mashed. Do not overmash potatoes or they will get tough. Combine potatoes, flour and eggs in a mixing bowl. Mix well until dough does not stick to hands (slowly add small amounts of flour if needed). Divide dough into 4 sections. Roll out each section into a long rope. Cut each rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Push fork tines on each piece for the classic gnocchi appearance. Bring water to a boil in a sauce pot. Drop in gnocchi and cook until they float.

For the chicken and sauce:

Combine garlic, lemon juice, rosemary and chicken slices in a mixing bowl. Let marinate for at least 2 hours. Combine Parmesan cheese, ricotta cheese and heavy cream in a mixing bowl and set aside. Heat saute pan on medium high. Add extra-virgin olive oil, onions, bell peppers and zucchini. Saute until onions are translucent (do not brown). Add marinated chicken slices and cook until slices are brown on all sides and internal temperature is 165 degrees. Reduce heat and add sauce mixture. Bring to a simmer. Drain cooked gnocchi and add to pan with chicken, vegetables and sauce. Stir to coat gnocchi with sauce. Serve gnocchi topped with extra Parmesan cheese. Serves 4.

Chicken Gnocchi Soup

Helen Meyer, a reader of this column, sent in a recipe for chicken gnocchi soup. Helen has made this soup many times and has included her personal recipe alterations throughout the ingredients.

1/3 cup olive oil

2 tsp. minced garlic

3 pounds chicken breast cubed

1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1/2 bag of baby spinach (remove tough stems)

Pint of heavy cream (or use half-and-half)

2 or 3 cans of chicken broth

2 chicken bouillon cubes

Package of potato gnocchi (1/2 package enough; cut them in half)

Salt and pepper, as needed

In large stock pot over medium heat, saute carrots and garlic. Place chicken and flour into the pot and stir until flour is absorbed into the chicken and juices. Add chicken broth and bouillon cubes. Let simmer until chicken is done. Add heavy cream, spinach and gnocchi. Cook until gnocchi is done (about 10 minutes) Check to make sure cream does not scorch. Soup will thicken. Serves 8.

Gnocchi Verdi, Small Spinach Dumplings

Joan Weeks, one of my cooking and cookbook friends from the Senior Center, brought in this recipe to share with Tracey.

4 tablespoons butter

2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped spinach, thoroughly defrosted, squeezed completely dry and chopped fine, about 1 1/2 cups

3/4 cup ricotta cheese

2 eggs, lightly beaten

6 tablespoons flour

3/4 cup freshly grated imported Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of ground nutmeg

6 to 8 quarts water

1 tablespoon salt

4 tablespoons melted butter

In an 8- to 10-inch enameled or stainless-steel skillet, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat. Add the chopped fresh or frozen spinach and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until almost all of the moisture has boiled away and the spinach begins to stick lightly to the skillet. Now add the 3/4 cup of the ricotta cheese and cook, stirring, for 3 to 4 minutes longer. With a rubber spatula, transfer the entire contents of the skillet to a large mixing bowl and mix in the 2 lightly beaten eggs, 6 tablespoons of flour, 1/4 cup of the grated cheese, 1/2 teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until gnocchi mixture is quite firm.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bring the 6 to 8 quarts water and 1 tablespoon of the salt to a simmer over moderate heat in a large soup pot or saucepan. Flour hands lightly and pick up about 1 tablespoon of the chilled gnocchi mixture at a time. Shape the tablespoonfuls into small balls about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Gently drop the balls into the simmering water and cook them uncovered for 5 to 8 minutes, or until they puff slightly and are somewhat firm to the touch. With a slotted spoon, lift the gnocchi out of the water and set them aside on a towel to drain.

Now pour 2 tablespoons of the melted butter into a shallow 8-by-12-inch baking-and-serving dish and swirl the butter around until the bottom of the dish glistens. Arrange the gnocchi in the dish in one layer about 1/4-inch apart, dribble the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter over them, and sprinkle the top of the gnocchi with the remaining 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts. Serve the gnocchi at once from the baking dish. Serve additional grated cheese separately, if desired. Serves 4 to 6.

I am all out of room, but I hope you have enjoyed this little lesson on gnocchi and you have a chance to try these recipes. Have a wonderful week, and until next time, happy cooking.

Susan McClanahan is administrator at the Cape Girardeau Senior Center. Send recipes to her at smcclanahan@semissourian.com or by mail at P.O. Box 699, Cape Girardeau, Mo. 63701. Recipes published have not been kitchen-tested by Southeast Missourian staff.

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