Light Basil and Spinach Gnocchi with Asiago Cheese Sauce
This is French-style gnocchi, made with a pate a choux dough. After the gnocchi have been boiled, they are put in a low casserole dish, covered with the cheese sauce, and baked until golden brown. This suggests one large casserole dish; small individual casseroles could be used instead.
- Olive oil - to oil dish
- Fresh Spinach - 8
- Water - 1 cup
- Unsalted Butter - 3 tablespoons
- Salt - 1 teaspoon
- Flour - 2 cups
- Eggs - 4 large
- Basil leaves - 3, julienned
- Nutmeg - 1 teaspoon
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Asiago Cheese Sauce
- Heavy (whipping) cream - 2 cups
- Red Pepper Flakes - 1/4 teaspoon, dried, or more to taste
- Salt - 1/4 teaspoon
- Asiago Cheese - 1 cup, grated
- Fresh basil sprigs - for garnish
To make the gnocchi: Coat the inside of a large low-sided casserole dish with olive oil. Process the spinach through a juicer and strain; you will need 1/2 cup of spinach juice. In a heavy saucepan, combine the water, butter, and salt and bring to a rolling boil. Add the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture forms a loose ball and pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer. Begin to mix on low speed, allowing the dough to cool slightly. Slowly incorporate the 1/2 cup of spinach juice, then add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Stop the mixer after adding the second egg and scrape down the sides. When all eggs are incorporated, mix in the basil, nutmeg, and pepper. The dough will be soft.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the gnocchi dough in a pastry bag with no tip. Squeeze the dough out over the boiling water, cutting off 1 inch at a time with a small knife and letting it drop into the water. Simmer for 2 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon, drain the liquid, and transfer the gnocchi to the prepared casserole dish. Do not try to cook all the gnocchi at once; cook in batches, and do not crowd the pot.
To make the sauce: Combine the cream, red pepper flakes, salt, and 3/4 cup of the cheese in a heavy saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir until the cheese is melted and the sauce is smooth.
To assemble: Preheat the oven to 400 F. Spoon the sauce over the gnocchi in the casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese. Bake 12 to 15 minutes, until a golden brown crust has formed on the top.
To serve: Present with basil sprigs on top.