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Bene! Steal this chef's gnocchi recipe!

In this special weekly feature, “Today” food editor Phil Lempert brings you recipes “stolen” (with permission) from notable restaurants across the world. See how much money you can save — and fun you can have — by cooking these dishes at home!This week: Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, from Poggio, in Sausalito, California Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is the elegant an

In this special weekly feature, “Today” food editor Phil Lempert brings you recipes “stolen” (with permission) from notable restaurants across the world. See how much money you can save — and fun you can have — by cooking these dishes at home!

This week: Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi, from Poggio, in Sausalito, California

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco is the elegant and charming community of Sausalito, host to an array of fine restaurants, hotels and galleries. Adding to the excitement of Sausalito’s dining scene is Poggio, an Italian-style trattoria created by Larry Mindel, a restaurateur who has received numerous accolades over his extensive career.

Mindel credits his vision for Poggio to a trip he made to Italy many years ago. Featuring dishes reminiscent of Northern Italy, executive chef Chris Fernandez makes use of local ingredients as well as organic herbs and vegetables grown especially for the restaurant.

More about the chef:

During a career cooking in top restaurants, Fernandez has acquired a keen fondness for classic Italian cooking and its heritage. “Each time I go to Italy,” he says, “I am reminded of its culture of simplicity, family and value. When we started thinking about Poggio’s menu, I knew we would focus on simple, unadorned dishes and treat them with respect.  

He then branched off on his own, running the kitchen at the Crescent Park Grill in Palo Alto, before being tapped in 1999 to oversee the reopening of Stars Bar and Dining in San Francisco. Fernandez then worked with the Avenir Restaurant Group in the Bay Area, for whom he helped create D'Asaro Trattoria, where he garnered Avenir its first three-star award while furthering his own proficiency in classic Italian cooking.

After joining Mindel at Poggio, Fernandez went to the renowned da Delfina in Tuscany to refine his skills. "It's not just a place to eat, it's a lifestyle," he says of the experience. "Da Delfina is steeped in traditional Tuscan recipes untouched by time. I want to capture that kind of cooking for Poggio.”

(Please note that ingredient prices are estimates and based on national averages. Amounts listed are for one portion. Increase proportionately according to number of portions desired.)

Spinach Ricotta Gnocchi (with Ragu)Chris Fernandez from Poggio, in Sausalito, California

Place the ricotta cheese in a strainer lined with cheesecloth and let sit overnight to remove excess liquid. Blanch spinach for 30 seconds in a large pot of salted, boiling water. Strain the spinach in a colander and then place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a paper towel. Allow the spinach to cool. Once cooled, squeeze out all of the excess water. Using a cutting board, chop spinach very fine.

Place the chopped spinach, ricotta, parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, and a pinch of salt, into a large mixing bowl. Mix until spinach has been evenly distributed. Then add the potato starch, instant potatoes and flour. This should bind the mixture together. In a small pot of salted, boiling water, drop in a spoon-sized piece of the mixture to test the consistency and flavor. If the gnocchi is too wet and falls apart you will need to add another egg and possibly some more flour. The key is to add the minimum amount of binder so that the gnocchi are as light as possible.

To prepare the gnocchi, place a large pot on the stove with plenty of water to boil the gnocchi. Bring the water up to a boil and turn down until you are ready to cook. Place the remaining 3 cups of flour in a long baking pan. Place the gnocchi mixture into a piping bag with a large straight tip, about 1/2 an inch in diameter. Pipe the gnocchi mixture in a long line directly on to the flour, as if you were making a long snake. With a knife, cut the gnocchi into 1-inch pieces. With your hands, gently pick up the gnocchi and place directly into boiling, salted water.

You will want to cook the gnocchi for at least 5 minutes, or until they float for 2 minutes. You can either serve immediately or hold the gnocchi for later use. If you plan to hold the gnocchi, place onto a lightly oiled sheet pan; and then put into the refrigerator. Once cooled, the gnocchi can be placed into an airtight container until you are ready to use. The gnocchi can then simply be reheated in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.

The gnocchi should be served on a classic Italian sauce, such as a ragu. (A staple of northern Italy's Bologna, ragu is a meat sauce containing ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine and seasonings.)

$13 at Poggio. Cost to cook at home: $4.19

9123049604826049233091ricotta cheese16ounce16 oz. ricotta cheese ($1.75)fresh spinach4ounce4 oz. fresh spinach ($0.75)potato starch0.25cup1/4 cup potato starch ($0.35)instant potatoes0.25cup1/4 cup instant potatoes ($0.22)flour0.25cup1/4 cup flour ($0.03)parmesan cheese0.25cup1/4 cup Parmesan cheese ($0.48)egg11 egg ($0.18)ground nutmeg0.25teaspoon1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg ($0.07)flour3cup3 cups flour, for dusting ($0.36)
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Poggio

777 Bridgeway

Sausalito, California

www.poggiotrattoria.com

Want to find out how you can make your favorite restaurant recipe at home? Just send e-mail Phil at Phil.Lempert@nbc.com with the name of the restaurant, city and state and the dish you would like to have re-created! Want to know more about Phil and food? Visit his website at www.supermarketguru.com.