Corsican dumplings in tomato sauce

These fluffy dumplings are made of spinach or Swiss chard, potato, herbs and ricotta or, if you can find it, brocciu, a Corsican fresh cheese of sheep or goats milk. They are topped with homemade tomato sauce and freshly grated parmesan, then baked in the oven.

The dumplings are made in stages and it does take time — but it’s fun. You can make the tomato sauce a day ahead of time if you like, and the batter may also be made in advance.

Serve the storzapretti as a vegetarian main dish or as a side with grilled or roasted meat, fish or poultry. A dry red or chilled rosé would go nicely.

The quantities below will serve 2-4 people.

For the tomato sauce:
1 can peeled tomatoes (14.5 oz/400 g)
1 clove garlic

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dried herbes de Provence or oregano
1/4 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
pinch of sugar

For the dumplings:
1 medium potato
1 pound (400 g) fresh spinach or Swiss chard
3-4 branches fresh mint
3-4 branches fresh parsley
1 egg
1/4 lb. (250 g) ricotta or brocciu
1 tsp. dried herbes de Provence or oregano
1 tsp. salt
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 ounce (40 g) freshly grated Parmesan
6 tbsp. flour

Start by making the tomato sauce, and the crucial first step is to open the can of tomatoes. Then peel and finely mince the garlic. Heat the oil to sizzling in a saucepan. Add the garlic, sauté for 5 seconds and immediately add the tomatoes. Stir. Turn the heat down to medium low. Use a wooden spatula to break up the tomatoes. Add the dried herbs, salt, pepper and the pinch of sugar. Stir. Simmer  for 15 minutes. Set aside.

Now make the dumplings. This process has two stages. In the first stage, you will cook and mash the potato, cook and chop the spinach or chard, and combine them with most of the remaining ingredients to make a batter. In the second stage, you will form the dumplings, roll them in flour and boil them. You will then assemble the dish and bake it.

Stage 1

1) Peel and cube the potato, immerse in a pot of water, bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain. Transfer to a plate and mash with a fork.

2) If using spinach, rinse, drain and remove any large stems. If using chard, rinse, drain, cut away and discard the stiff central stalks and roughly chop the leaves. In a large skillet, add enough water to cover the bottom. Place over high heat. Pile on the spinach or chard. Allow to reduce, stirring occasionally — this takes about 2 minutes. Transfer to a sieve. Press down with your wooden spatula to remove as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a plate. Chop by slicing through with a sharp knife in several directions.

3) Break the egg into a large bowl. Beat with a fork. Add the ricotta or brocciu. Beat with the fork to blend. Add the spinach or chard. Add the mashed potato. Strip the leaves from the mint and parsley, chop and add. Add the dried herbs, salt and pepper. Blend well, using your fork.

Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. You can pause the recipe at this point if you like.

Stage 2

Grate the parmesan. Lightly oil a baking pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C, gas mark 6).

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. While it’s heating, prepare two large plates — spoon the flour onto one, and line the other with paper towels.

When the water boils, turn it down slightly — if it’s boiling too fast, the dumplings may fall apart. You will now cook the dumplings in batches.

Remove the batter from the fridge. Using your hands, form an oval dumpling about an inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Roll it gently in the flour to cover all sides. Drop into the boiling water. Make about three more in the same fashion, being careful not to overcrowd the pot.

When the dumplings rise to the surface, they are done. Carefully transfer out of the pot and set to drain on the paper towels.

Make a second batch of dumplings. While they’re cooking, transfer the drained first batch to the baking pan. Repeat until you’ve used all the batter. For me, it took three batches.

When all the dumplings are in the baking pan, spoon on the tomato sauce. Top with the grated parmesan.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is staring to brown.

Serve piping hot. Serves 2-4.

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