I used to not be a fan of marinara until I came upon Julia Moskin's simple -- and rather genius -- recipe in the New York Times. Her marinara, which I follow almost exactly, is rich, full-bodied, and so good that even Jay loves it, and if you have a kid to feed, you know that's not an easy standard to meet.
I have used it in other recipes in the past (it is especially good in these vegan pizza rolls), but I think this sauce is simply bliss paired with my Spinach Cashew Ricotta Dumplings, or gnocchi verde.
I enjoy making gnocchi every once in a while, and it is not as time consuming as you might think. In this recipe, for instance, you need to blend some cashews and cook the spinach until it's tender-- a few minutes' job, if that -- and you are pretty much done. The dumplings are very flavorful, and it's hard to believe that all you really need to flavor them is a smidgen of nutmeg.
What really endears this dish to the speed-loving cook in me is that I can use frozen spinach, which I nearly always have in my freezer. The rest is pantry ingredients: cashews, flour, and canned San Marzano tomatoes for the marinara. You don't need a gnocchi board or even a fork to shape the spinach cashew ricotta dumplings, your hands will do just fine, thank you.
Now, let's make that gnocchi and marinara. I can't wait to eat!
Spinach Cashew Ricotta Dumplings in a Marinara Sauce
For the spinach cashew ricotta dumplings:
- 1 cup raw cashews (soaked for 30 minutes unless using a high powered blender)
- 24 oz spinach (I use 2 12-oz packages of chopped, frozen spinach)
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup nutritional yeast
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus ¼ cup more for dusting. You can use gluten free flour)
- Salt to taste
- Ground black pepper to taste
For the marinara:
- 28 oz San Marzano tomatoes (or any canned plum tomatoes, placed in a bowl and squeezed with your fingers until they break down. Swirl a cup of water in the tin and reserve.)
- 7 cloves garlic (thinly sliced)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (use 1 tablespoon fresh, or use 4-5 fresh basil leaves)
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Make the marinara:
- Heat the oil in a wide saucepan or wok. Add the garlic and let it cook, stirring, for a few seconds until it just starts to change color.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and the reserved water from the tin. Add the thyme and red pepper flakes and mix well. Add some ground black pepper if you want to.
- Let the sauce cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes or until it has reduced and looks bright orange on top.
- Add salt to taste.
Make the spinach cashew ricotta dumplings:
- Thaw the spinach on the countertop, or, for a quicker method, place it in a microwave-safe bowl and zap until defrosted, about five minutes. Squeeze out as much water as you can.
- Heat the olive oil and add the spinach along with salt and ground black pepper. Saute until the spinach is quite dry and cooked. Transfer to a large bowl.
- Drain the cashews and blend them with one cup of water until you have a very smooth paste. Add to the bowl with the spinach.
- Add the all-purpose flour, nutritional yeast, and nutmeg to the bowl along with more salt if needed. Mix well.
- Place a large pot of water to boil.
- Place the flour for dusting on a plate and drop a spoonful of the spinach dumpling batter on the flour. Turn to coat with the flour then, using your fingers, gently shape into a ball. Place on a floured plate until you shape the rest of the dumplings. I got 24 dumplings, about an inch in diameter.
- When the water has boiled, gently drop the dumplings into the water, one at a time. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, but don't stir them as they cook because you don't want to break them. As the dumplings cook, they will rise to the surface.
- Using a slotted spoon, fish the dumplings out of the water and place them on a plate covered with paper towels.
- To serve, place some marinara on a plate, and top with the dumplings.