There are lots of good reasons to keep packaged shelf-stable gnocchi on hand, but not because they are anything like the real thing.
These are sturdy and dense, unlike the traditional Italian dumplings, crafted of ricotta or potato. Delicate, tender and light, those handmade dumplings require patience and skills that are best learned at the side of an Italian grandmother. Packaged gnocchi is vacuum-sealed and can be found in the pasta section of most grocery stores and co-ops. It’s shelf-stable and will keep in the cupboard for at least six months. Once the package is opened, wrap in plastic, and store in the refrigerator for up to three days or freeze.
Ignore the package directions — it is best not to boil these first as they tend to turn gummy. The sturdy little dumplings are quicker than pasta. They’re just as versatile given their neutral flavor, but there’s no waiting for the pot to boil, and no danger of overcooking. Simply open the package and simmer in any sauce — tomato, Alfredo, creamy seafood — until warm enough to serve.
I like them best when they’re sizzled in a heavy skillet with plenty of oil or butter until deep golden brown. It takes just a few minutes for them to become pleasantly chewy and crisp. They’re great sprinkled with chopped fresh herbs and flaked salt for a cocktail snack, or toss them with plenty of shredded Parmesan and cracked pepper to serve with a crisp salad for a light supper.
But why stop there? Give them a splash of lemon, a glug of heavy cream, toss in a handful of fresh spinach and simmer on low just until it wilts. Here’s a one-pan dinner that’s bright and fresh as spring.
Golden Gnocchi with Fresh Spinach
Serves 2 to 4.
Note: These packaged gnocchi are quicker and easier than pasta. Once they’re cooked, toss in your favorite cheese, herbs, a splash of wine or lemon, a little cream and whatever green leafy vegetable you have on hand. This recipe, which is easily doubled, calls for spinach, but do try kale, collards, chard, turnip or beet greens. From Beth Dooley.
• 2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil or unsalted butter, or a mix of both
• 1 lb. vacuum-packaged gnocchi
• 1 leek, finely chopped
• 1 clove garlic, smashed
• 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 2 c. fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped
• 1/2 c. heavy cream
• 2 tbsp. shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste
• Coarse or flaked salt, to taste
• Freshly ground black pepper to taste
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Melt the butter or heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high. Separate any of the gnocchi that are stuck together and add them to the skillet in an even layer. Cover and cook until these are golden brown on one side, about 3 minutes; turn and continue cooking until golden on the other side.
Toss in the leek and garlic and continue cooking until they have become tender, about 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and then the spinach; then stir in the cream and the cheese. Continue cooking until the spinach has wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes. Toss in the basil, taste and adjust the seasoning and serve immediately.