Alto Adige-style spinach and bread dumplings with gruyère cheese & Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Recipe from Nino Zoccali's cookbook Pasta Artigiana
This dish is more commonly known by its Germanic name, knödel di spinaci, rather than by its Italian counterpart, canederli di spinaci. Menus in Italy often use both versions to describe the dish. There is very little doubt that this dish is of strong Germanic/Austrian origin. But over the course of history, it has become a very traditional dish of the Alto Adige, Trentino and other northern Italian regions. While not what we normally expect when eating pasta, canederli are wonderful and particularly great to eat in the middle of winter. I have eaten them in a little cabin in the middle of snow-covered mountains in the Alto Adige with my wife, son and sommelier, and I can’t imagine a more fulfilling experience.
120 g (4¼ oz) salted butter
1 medium onion, finely diced
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground white pepper, to taste
3 x 59 g (2¼ oz) free-range or organic eggs
freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
500 g (1 Ib, 2 oz) day-old bread, cut roughly into 1 cm (½ inch) square pieces
100 g (3½ oz/1 cup) grated gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
300 g (10½ oz) baby English spinach, boiled or steamed, then finely
chopped and well drained
3 tablespoons full-cream (whole) milk
freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste
Put two-thirds of the butter in a saucepan over low heat and cook the onion until soft and translucent in colour. Season with the sea salt and white pepper and set aside to cool. Combine the eggs, nutmeg, bread, gruyère cheese, flour, cooled sautéed onion, spinach and milk to form a soft dough. Use a little more milk if required.
Using wet hands, form the mixture into small dumplings (the size of large gnocchi). Cook in abundant salted boiling water for about 8-12 minutes. Drain and place on a hot or warm serving dish. Cover with the freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, to taste. Heat the remaining butter in a small saucepan over high heat and cook until foaming and nut brown. Drizzle over the top of the cheese and dumplings and serve immediately.