Grana Padano, bread and spinach Gnocchi

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Grana Padano, bread and spinach Gnocchi
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Details

. Difficulty: Medium . Serves: 4 people . Preparation time: 60 minutes
I love this recipe, delicious, easy and a great way to make use of a few days old stale bread. When you think of Italian gnocchi, perhaps your mind pictured straight away the silky potato version which truth to be told is the most popular and loved version, but not the only one as the word “gnocchi” could also be used to described a wider variety of preparations.
From Gnocchetti Sardi (with flour in Sardinia) to Gnocchi alla Romana (with semolina in Rome) the word “gnocchi” is part of our culinary slang everywhere in Italy, including in the most northern regions of the country where “gnocchi” are usually made with bread and they are locally called Canederli. That is where this recipe takes inspiration from. 

Chef tip: Make sure the gnocchi mix is not to firm before preparing the gnocchi. If it is, add a touch of milk, in the opposite scenario if too watery add a touch of breadcrumbs
 

Ingredients

For the Gnocchi
300 g of rustic bread, chopped and crust removed
150 g of Grated Grana Padano Riserva over 20 months
4 eggs
100 ml of milk
200 g of cooked spinach

For the Grana Padano béchamel:
500 ml of milk
40 g of butter
40 g of plain flour
100 g of Grated Grana Padano Riserva over 20 months
Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Preparation

Start by making the gnocchi dough. Make sure the spinach is well drained by patting it dry with a kitchen towel but do not over squeeze it. Chop the spinach and mix them with the chopped bread and all other ingredients for the gnocchi. Make sure all is combined and uniformly mixed but do not knead with too much energy as you want the mixture to still retain a bit of fluffiness or otherwise the final result could be a stodgy. 
Layer the cling film on the table and place in the middle 1 quarter of the mixture. Wrap the mixture into the cling film so as to create a long-shaped tube of around 2 cm in diameter. Apply a bit of pressure while rolling the gnocchi on the table and make sure that the gnocchi mixture is well wrapped inside the film. To try and make more sense of this step think of it as if you ever have made maki sushi.
Now repeat the procedure for all of the Grana Padano gnocchi mixture and cook the film wrapped gnocchi in simmering water for about 12 minutes and when ready let them cool down (in iced water if you want to speed up) before unwrapping. The gnocchi should be firm by now.
To prepare the béchamel, melt the butter in a casserole and add the sieved flour to it. Cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat until the roux (mix of butter and flour) is well golden. Now pour in the milk, stirring vigorously with a whisk, and bring to boiling point while continuing to mix.  Season with salt and pepper and a touch of nutmeg. The béchamel should be now ready, creamy and with no lumps. Remove from the heat and stir in the grated Grana Padano cheese until it melts. If there are lumps, pass the sauce through a fine sieve.
Slice the gnocchi into 1 to 2 cm slices and grease an oven proof dish with butter. Place the gnocchi into the dish overlapping them to create a pattern. Do not top one slice of the gnocchi with the other entirely as it will prevent the sauce to spread evenly.
Now top the gnocchi with abundant béchamel and why not, sprinkle with some more grated Grana Padano.
Place it under the grill of your oven on maximum power to get an evenly nice golden colour all around and when ready enjoy it straight away.
Danilo Cortellini
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