Don't get all hung up on the cow parsnip aspect of this dish. I use it because I know where to find it, and because the flavor works well. Any green will do, as I mention above. Do get all hung up about the timing of the gnocchi, however. Make the dough right before you cook the dumplings, otherwise you will find yourself needing a lot more flour -- and your gnocchi will be heavier. You can make the carrot broth up to a day ahead. I will serve this recipe as either part of a larger, longer meal, or as a light summer dinner. You can fill yourself up on these gnocchi, but it's more fun to serve this soup with, say, a salad and some seared duck breast or a grilled steak. This is really not that hard a dish to make. Honest.
2ouncesspinach or cow parsnip leaves,blanched and squeezed (about 15 to 20 small, young leaves)
1poundwhole milk ricotta cheese
1/2cupfinely grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
1 1/2cupsall-purpose flour(more or less, see below)
Start by making the consomme. Peel the carrots and chop them roughly. Pulse them in a food processor (or chop them fine) until they are in little bits, but not pureed.
Put the carrot in a heavy, lidded pot and cover it with the water. Bring to a boil, then drop to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover the pot and let this steep for 1 hour.
Strain the broth through a fine-meshed sieve lined with either cheesecloth or a paper towel. Clean out the pot and return the strained broth to it. Set aside for the moment.
Once the carrot broth is steeping, get a large pot of water ready; this is what you'll cook the gnocchi in. When it's boiling, add enough salt to make it taste like the sea.
While the gnocchi water is ready, start by boiling the parsnip leaves for 2 minutes. Remove and submerge in a large bowl of ice water. Take the leaves out and squeeze the excess moisture from them. Mince them well, but do not puree -- unless you want green gnocchi, which is an option.
Mix the cow parsnip, ricotta, salt, nutmeg, pecorino and eggs together in a bowl. Add enough flour to that the dough comes together in a mass that can be kinda-sorta kneaded, but not really. Soft, pliable, and just a little sticky. The better you get at making gnocchi, the less flour you will need. Start with about 1 1/2 cups.
Shape the gnocchi dough into a rectangle (ish) in the bowl and cut it into equal pieces. Take one out and put it on a well-floured surface. Gently roll it into a log about as thick as your thumb and forefinger put together; for me this is a little less than 1 inch thick. You might need to cut the log into serviceable sections. Set those aside and work on manageable lengths.
Use a knife to cut the log into gnocchi about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long. They will look a little like pillows. Gently roll them around in the flour to coat the cut edges, otherwise you run the risk of a gnocchi glob in the pot when you cook them. Set aside and repeat with the rest of the dough.
To finish, heat the carrot broth until it steams. Do not boil it. Add salt to taste. Boil the gnocchi until they float, and then for 1 minute more. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to individual bowls and pour the carrot broth over them.