When babies start eating real food, they’re exposed to a whole new world of flavor. As they discover tastes they love, they may also surprise us with ones they reject. Once you figure out what your little one covets–whether it’s avocado blended with banana, or orange-and-apple compote–you may tend to stick with it, especially as you space out new introductions to baby’s diet. After all, it’s a challenge to constantly come up with creative ideas that’ll translate into homemade baby food they can eat without the help of teeth… but you may find yourself wondering if your budding foodie isn’t growing a little bored by the repetition.
Of course, once they are toddlers with a growing set of molars, the possibilities for adding finger foods and other non-pureed dishes abounds, but until then, you need to make creativity your strong suit–as if you don’t have enough on your (literal and figurative) plate already.
Scratching my brain for ideas, I was thrilled to recently stumble across a suggestion from kid food genius Catherine McCord of Weelicious that made me immediately ask: “Why didn’t I think of that?”
It’s a dish I know well. For Italians, it’s know as gnudi-–similar to gnocchi, but without the potatoes and very little flour. In fact, they’re only really shaped like gnocchi, but they make an entirely different, delightful, light and healthy dish altogether. It’s an ingenious recipe for babies, though there’s hardly a kid of any age who won’t love them. Added bonus? It even makes an elegant first course dish for adults. So make plenty: everyone will be digging into baby’s food.
“This is a recipe that Popeye would be proud of,” says Catherine. “Packed with spinach and creamy ricotta, these little morsels are like soft pillows: delicate and so easy to make. You could even serve them with a little red sauce, but for easier cleanup, I highly recommend just a little sprinkle of parmesan cheese and that’s it!”
10 ounces block frozen chopped spinach
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
2/3 cup parmesan cheese, plus 2 tablespoons for sprinkling before serving
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons flour, plus more for dusting your hands while rolling
1. Defrost the brick of frozen spinach (you can also do this in the microwave).
2. Squeeze ALL (and I mean ALL) of the water out of the spinach in small handfuls (I use my hands and do it over a bowl to make sure I don’t lose any spinach).
3. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor and pulse. You want to make sure the spinach is in tiny pieces and the mixture is thoroughly combined.
4. Dust your hands with a little flour so the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands.
5. Take 1 teaspoon of the spinach mixture and roll into tiny balls. Place on a plate covered with waxed paper or parchment.
6. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for cooking the gnocchi.
7. Add the gnocchi to the water in batches and cook for 3 minutes or until they rise to the surface.
8. Using a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi to a plate or bowl.
9. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, cool and serve.
*After step 5, place on sheet tray and freeze for 30 minutes. Transfer to a ziploc bag, label and freeze up to 4 months. When ready, thaw to room temperature and follow steps 6-9.