Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Badly made dinner for a winter's night.

Twenty years ago - or maybe it was thirty - no-one had ever heard of gnocchi until some Italian immigrants started importing shrink-wrapped packs of them and selling them in delis in the inner suburbs.

I bought some of the earliest ones and quite liked them with napoli or bolognese sauce, but these days I make my own, because home-made ones make the manufactured ones taste like Deb instant mashed potato, which essentially is what they are.

Now gnocchi are everywhere, especially in overpriced hipster cafes where I even came across one dish some years ago that was entitled 'gnoccho' because it was literally one on the plate. That was probably the last time I visited a hipster cafe. The sole gnoccho had an injection of arugula walnut pesto on it, and it costed $21, but without the dollar sign, to make it sound cheaper.

But gnocchi are not the only Italian dumplings. There are also 'malfatti', which means 'badly made', because these dumplings tend to take random shapes, unlike their gnocchi cousins which can be fashioned into perfect pillows (although mine are never uniform).

These could take off*. If so, look out for 'malfatto' on hipster cafe menus, and avoid.


Cook a bunch of well-rinsed and drained spinach in a little oil and a chopped clove of garlic.

When the spinach is well wilted, place it in a large bowl and mix it with:

- a cup of ricotta

- a quarter cup of grated parmesan

- a cup of bread crumbs

- a quarter cup of spring onions

- a handful of chopped basil or dried equivalent

- two eggs, and

- a quarter teaspoon of nutmeg.

These ratios are approximate, aiming for a dough that is workable but not too moist.

When well mixed, roll with floured hands into logs.

Cut the logs into one-inch sections and set on a floured surface or baking sheet.

When ready to cook, drop the logs carefully into salted boiling water.

Reduce heat and simmer four to five minutes.

Lift out carefully with slotted spoon, drain and place on serving dishes. Serve with your choice of sauce - good with a simple tomato-based or bolognese sauce. Or lightly fry them in some sage butter and top with parmesan.


*Although they didn't take off when I last wrote about them 11 years ago.

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