We could all use a little more dough these days

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Savory dough balls don’t sound too appealing, but call them dumplings and everyone is a fan.

The definition of dumplings is quite inclusive. They can be filled or not. They can be boiled, fried or baked. From spaetzel to gyoza, every country has at least one version. Dumplings are popular all over the world, as they are versatile and tasty. They are also a good way to use up leftover ingredients from other dishes.

Gnocchi (nyo’-kee), an Italian rendition of dumplings, dates back to Roman times. The first “official” recipe for gnocchi was written by Apicius in the first century B.C. They were made from a semolina mixture flavored with black pepper and honey.

Although every region in Italy has its own take on the dish, the most popular version in the United States comes from northern Italy. A mixture of potatoes, flour and eggs, they are fluffy pillows usually served with a simple sage and butter sauce.

In Florence, there is a type of gnocchi with the local name of “strozzapreti,” or priest stranglers. Made from spinach and ricotta, they were rumored to be so delicious that gluttonous clergy choked while eating them too quickly.

Gnocchi are addictive and filling, so try to remember to eat them slowly to avoid the fate of the Florentine priests.

Spinach gnocchi is a Florentine favorite. Just pace yourself when you’re eating the delicious dough balls.

Spinach Gnocchi

  • 1 12-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 12-ounce container ricotta
  • 2 large eggs
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • 2 scallions, minced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • A few grindings of black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 2 cups marinara sauce (or sauce of your choice)

In a large bowl, mix the spinach, ricotta, eggs, the ¼ cup Parmesan, scallions, garlic, pepper, nutmeg and salt. When mixed, stir in the crumbs. Lightly oil your hands, and roll teaspoonfuls of the mixture into ovals about 1¼ inches long.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Working in batches, add the gnocchi and cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until the gnocchi are puffed and firm. Remove with a slotted spoon.

When ready to serve, heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spoon the tomato sauce into a 1½-quart oblong baking dish. Arrange the gnocchi on the sauce in a single layer. Brush the gnocchi lightly with melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese. Bake 15 minutes, until hot, and serve.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.