As soon as I saw the nickname of the gnocchi "malfatti" (badly made), I thought in all my under-achieving glory, "I could make that." And so I did. And it was ugly. I then served it with heaps of fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano and made it uglier still.
And it was delicious. I fell in love with "no-fuss, earthy, plain but delicious." I had been in a new adventure with rodents - and was in no mood for fuss. Pippin (the non-mouse killing cat) had chased mouse-breath into the hall closet where I promptly shut the door, stuffed the bottom with towels and went back to work. Later I realized the mouse had been confined with 8 pounds of cat food. It was suggested to me that when I opened the door, I would find a fat mouse with an identity crisis.
I wanted food that I could roll and thump and form - badly. I didn't want pretty crimped edges. I wanted to swallow - the earth (sans rodents). This peasant-hearty, better if you have been mushroom-foraging all day (as opposed to mouse-foraging) - meal fit the bill.
My mother came over and kept swiping them from the baking pan. I finally heated some up, poured a few tablespoons of melted butter and scattered some Parmesan on top and made her a proper plate. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Ingredients - 8 first-course servings
(From Bon Appetit's May 2000 issue - I seem to be working my way through it)
4-6 ounce bags ready-to-use spinach (I used two large bags and a some handfuls of arugula)
2 cups whole milk ricotta
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano- Reggiano
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground peppers
Generous pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cook spinach in salted, boiling water until just wilted - about two minutes (really 1 minute will do it). Drain and squeeze out liquid (the hardest part of the process). Chop spinach.
Mix spinach, ricotta. 1/2 cup Parmesan, 1/2 cup flour, egg yolks, salt, pepper and nutmeg in bowl until sticky dough forms. Dust baking sheet with flour. (I over-dusted. I know that surprises you.) Using floured hands, roll 1/4 cup dough into 5 inch-long rope. Cut rope into 1-inch pieces. (I did this for awhile and then just started rolling 1-inch balls.) Roll each piece between hands to form an oval. (I formed a rectangle - it tastes the same.)
Working in batches, add gnocchi to a large pot of salted, boiling water. Boil until gnocchi rise to the surface and then cook 4 minutes longer. (I cooked about 8 at a time). Remove with slotted spoon.
Pour butter over gnocchi and toss with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Serve. Peasant food at its best.
(Can be made ahead: cover gnocchi, chill. Reheat in 400 degree F oven for about ten minutes).
In Tuscany these are also called "topini verdi." (Little green mice). No irony there.