Mamma Mia, Nonna's Done It Again

Make Nonna's spinach and ricotta gnocchi at home, so she can vicariously feed you too much pasta and too much parmigiano.

Nonna Carla is our Nonna, Messina's Nonna. Well... she's "officially" the Mum of two of the Messina owners — brothers Nick and Danny and has one grandson in the business too, but she's adopted about 50 more grandkids at Messina HQ and we're proud receivers of her warm and OTT Italian lunches. Pre-COVID, everyone at Messina HQ would gather for lunch at 12 on the dot, to eat a home-cooked meal at the hands of Nonna Carla. She doesn't do things by halves, EXTRA VIRGIN olive oil is always on standby and she's not shy on asking "why you notta having seconds?" or a personal favourite; "adda more parmigiano, not enough!" as she keeps a watchful eye over towered plates.

She recently had her debut feature in Broadsheet for her Polpette Al Sugo recipe, but being at the mercy of self isolation, she's feeling a little off kilter and would like some more mouths to vicariously feed. She loves this Spinach and Ricotta Gnocchi recipe that she found in a magazine years ago and adapted, to make it her own. And she'd love for you to give it a go yourselves, at home.

If you want to have the true Carla experience, she recommends you finish yourself off with her favourite triple scoop combo: gianduia, Italian nougat and pistachio gelato... never straying too far from tradition of course.


Serves 4


1 egg
1 bunch spinach (8 leaves)
250g ricotta cheese
90g grated parmesan
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
100g plain flour
45g butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash and dry spinach, remove the white stalk.  Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and fill 1/4 of the pan with water.  Wait until boiling, then add spinach and cook for 5 minutes with the lid on. Drain well and chop finely.

Combine the spinach, ricotta, half the grated parmesan, beaten egg, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well until combined.

Form the mixture into balls or an egg shape using a tablespoon and the palm of your hand to mould.  Roll the gnocchi lightly in flour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil and drop in gnocchi 6-8 at a time.  Simmer gently until the gnocchi rises to the surface (about 1-2 minutes). Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.


2 tins diced tomato
3 whole garlic cloves
1/2 bunch chopped basil
300g sliced mushrooms
150g chopped speck or bacon
2 tbs brandy or whisky
6 tsp thickened cream
6 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
50g parmesan cheese

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat, add half of the olive oil and fry garlic until golden.  Add diced tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar, simmer until reduced. Add the basil, remove the garlic cloves and take off the heat.

Heat another large saucepan over medium heat, add other half of oil, chopped speck/bacon and fry until golden.  Add sliced mushrooms and simmer until soft. Add brandy/whisky and stir through, lastly add the cream, stir and take off the heat.


Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

Place a layer of sauce on the bottom of a baking dish, sprinkle with parmesan, add a layer of gnocchi and cover with another layer of sauce and parmesan.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, until warmed through.

(image credits Kitti Gould for Broadsheet)

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