Here is everything we know about gnocchi: 1) Gnocchi is Italian for “lump.” 2) Gnocchi has been around for hundreds of years, about 700 actually. It was around in the 1300s, approximately 300 years before the potato even showed its face in Italy. Back then, they were really just little dumplings made from flour or bread crumbs. With the introduction of the potato, gnocchi was transformed from a common starchy lump to a softy textured, light pillow of a treat. 3) Gnocchi are most commonly thought of as small dumplings made primarily of potato (and a small amount of flour and egg), but, according to Harold McGee, gnocchi can be made by replacing the potato with other starchy vegetables or ricotta, which is what we’re presenting here. Roman gnocchi are made by baking squares of a cooked dough made from milk and semolina. 4) Ricotta gnocchi are delicious, and not too hard to make, but they require a light touch to really shine and may take some perseverance and practice. So, be gentle with your little dumplings and do not be discouraged if your first batch aren’t perfect, ours weren’t either, but they’re worth getting good at.
- 1 egg yolk
- 1 lb ricotta cheese
- ½ cup flour
- 3 Tbsp Parmesan cheese
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp chopped garlic
- 3 roasted tomatoes
- ½ cup crushed canned tomato
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 1 tsp butter
- salt and pepper
Ricotta can vary wildly from producer to producer – it ranges in moisture content and flavor depending on the species of animal from which the milk came and the method of production. If you are fortunate enough to have real, non-homogenized ricotta, it’s important to “drain” the ricotta before using it by hanging it in cheesecloth or in a colander for about 30 minutes to an hour to get out as much moisture as possible. You may be able to find real ricotta at your farmers market, it’ll be harder to find at a supermarket. Another tip for light and fluffy ricotta gnocchi is to press the ricotta through a fine mesh strainer to break the ricotta up into very thin pieces. This way you don’t start with large clumps of cheese. But to be honest, I’ve made this without this step and it’s still delicious. The goal from here on out is to use as light of a touch as possible to maintain a light dough. In a large bowl, fold the ricotta and egg together. Slowly add in the half cup of flour and the grated Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Knead the dough lightly for 1-2 minutes or until all ingredients are just combined and the dough is just slightly sticky. One secret to good gnocchi is not to overwork the dough. Add more flour if the dough is too sticky to work with.
Separate the dough in to sections and roll each section of dough with your hands into snake like logs until the thickness is about 1″ inches. Cross cut the logs so the gnocchi is about 1½ – 2 inches by 1½ – 2 inches. Dust with flour and place the gnocchi on a well-floured baking sheet and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Cook the gnocchi in boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until they are heated through and begin to float. Scoop the gnocchi out with a slotted spoon or small strainer. The gnocchi can be sauced and served light and fluffy at this point, but we like to give it a quick sear to create a textural contrast between the melty interior and the seared exterior. Heat olive oil in a skillet over moderate heat, sauté a single layer of the cooked gnocchi in oil until slightly browned and crisp on each side, turning each piece just once. Pour onto a plate or pasta dish, top with sauce and shaved parmesan cheese and serve hot.
For the Sauce: In a medium hot sauté pan, sauté the garlic in the olive oil until golden brown. Add in the tomato products, chicken stock, and the basil and cook for 5 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat and finish the sauce with the butter. Season to taste.
Sage Butter Alternate Sauce: Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over med-low heat. Add ½ cup small fresh sage leaves or large sage leaves cut into quarter inch wide strips and cook, stirring often, until butter begins to brown slightly and smells nutty and toasty (3-4 minutes).
Serves 3- 4