Nettle Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato Sauce

DSC_0034_3There’s more to nettle cooking than soup.

These light and tasty dumplings are quite different from (let’s face it, somewhat heavy) potato gnocchi.  They are made with wilted nettles and ricotta cheese, poached and complimented with tangy tomato sauce.  They make an excellent seasonal starter or supper dish. Serve 5-6 gnocchi per person, with a little sauce, not too much, and parmesan.

Young wilted nettles taste a bit like pea pods, if you cook them longer, say in a soup, they begin to take on a more earthy, iron-y tang. However you cook them, they make delicious greens.DSCF3068

Nettle picking

Get your rubber gloves on and pick the youngest leaves at the top of the plant (the top 4 are best), or the young shoots as they break through the earth. Older bigger leaves may contain tough fibers. Pick a substantial amount, enough to fill a shopping carrier bag, then take them home and wash them in a bowl of water (remembering to keep the gloves on). My bag weighed in at 425g, just under a pound. 

To wilt nettles

Place in the washed nettles in a colander and shake the water off the nettle tops. DSC_0004_6Place them in a large pan over a low heat and put a lid. The small amount of water clinging to the leaves will be enough to steam them. Wilt them down for  3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should remain bright dark green. Remove from heat and place back in the colander to cool and drain. DSC_0006_2_4They are now soft and ready to eat. For this recipe you will also need to squeeze out excess water with your fists, when cooled, or there will be too much liquid to hold the gnocci together.

A large bag will make a ball of cooked nettles that will fit in your hand.

Nettle Gnocci – makes 24-28DSC_0015_2_2

2                                large eggs, beaten

1 tub (240g)               ricotta cheese

85g (3 oz)                  grated Parmesan

1/4 tsp                       salt

1/2 tsp                       nutmeg, ground

1/4tsp                        pepper

Some flour for rolling

Wilt the nettles as instructed above, allow to cool and then squeeze the water from them gently with your fists.

Now place the nettles and ricotta in a large bowl and mash together with a fork.  When well mixed, add the eggs, parmesan, a grating of nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Mix everything together with a wooden spoon.  If you have time, pop the bowl in the fridge for an hour or so, it helps to stiffen the mixture.DSC_0019_2_5

DSC_0020_3_3DSC_0023_3Now sprinkle some flour on a flat plate or shallow bowl. Take a dessert spoon of the mixture, shape it into an oval gnocci in your (wet) hands and roll lightly in the flour.  Alternatively, can also use two spoons to make neat little quenelles the completed gnocchi on another clean plate, taking care not to pile them on top of each other.

Meanwhile, fill a large pan with water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Carefully drop the gnocchi in batches of 8-10, into the water.  They will sink to the bottom.  DSC_0027_4_2When they rise to the surface, continue to cook for about 1 minute and they are done.DSC_0031_2_2

Lift them out carefully with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you finish the rest.  Serve with ‘Cherry Tomato Sauce’ (see below) and parmesan.

Fresh Cherry Tomato sauceDSC_0005_5

1tblsp                                     olive oil

1/2                                         onion, finely chopped

1 small punnet                         fresh cherry tomatoes, chopped roughly

1 tsp                                        tomato puree (optional)

1/4tsp                                    sugar

1/2 tsp salt or to taste

You need tasty tomatoes for this sauce and it is difficult to get good tomatoes in the early months of spring in Dartmoor.  I use cherry tomatoes which have more flavour and also look attractive with the gnocci. The sauce is barely cooked, so they hold their shape. You don’t need much sauce for the gnocci or it will overwhelm the dish.

Heat the oil and cook the onion until translucent and golden.DSC_0009_2_7 Meanwhile, cut every little tomato in half.  When the onion has softened, add the halved tomatoes, tomato puree, a dash of sugar to counter the acidity and a good pinch of salt. DSC_0011_3_3 Cook for 1 minute, add a spoon of water, stir once to mix the ingredients, cook for another 2 minutes adding a little more water if necessary to keep the sauce loose. So that’s three minutes in all. The cherry tomatoes will have softened and the sauce is rich and tangy.DSC_0013_2



7 thoughts on “Nettle Gnocchi with Cherry Tomato Sauce

  1. Pingback: Nettles | Devonium

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  4. Pingback: Wild Garlic Season is here again | Devonium

  5. Pingback: Gnocchi with marinara, spinach salad and sparkling water. | Haven't We Done This Before?

  6. Pingback: Gnocchi all’Aglione (home-made gnocchi with Tuscan garlic tomato sauce) « Silvia's Cucina

  7. I just foraged! The main ingredient was growing on my compost! Try Natacha’s nettle gnocchi, it’s seriously delicious!

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