So one of my goals over the past three or four years has been to perfect the most masterful of Italian culinary creations… ricotta gnocchi. Truthfully, the first 15-20 times I’ve made them they weren’t that good, actually they were downright bad… but I’ve been steadily getting better. While not yet perfect, I’d say that my ricotta gnocchi are better than a vast majority of those that I’ve had at restaurants, and that’s saying something because it’s pretty much a sure thing that if I see ricotta gnocchi on a menu I’m ordering them.
So what you’re aiming for is a heavenly pillow of cheesy pasta deliciousness that should melt in your mouth. The way to achieve this is with as little flour as you can possibly use and still make a quasi-dough. That is the tricky part. In the beginning you’ll be making your gnocchi dough and think it’s too loose and add more flour to make it easier to work with… wrong. So let’s get into the recipe and the instructions, and then I’ll explain why that’s wrong.
Serves 4 (moderate sized portions mixed with other ingredients)
1lb Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese (don’t skimp and use a store brand, use fresh or a quality brand, trust me!)
1c Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Egg
1c All Purpose Flour (3/4c for gnocchi, 1/4c to flour rolling surface)
1tsp Fresh Ground Black Pepper (I prefer a five peppercorn blend)
Traditionally you would make these by hand, but as I’ve said in other posts, Kitchen Aids were invented for a reason! I’m sure for some purists this is gnocchi blasphemy, but I’m happier with the consistency of the finished product this way.
In a mixing bowl add your ricotta, parmesan, egg and black pepper. Mix using the paddle attachment until everything is well integrated. Add your 3/4c of flour and mix at a medium speed until blended. You should be left with a relatively loose dough. It will have a consistency just slightly denser than ricotta cheese.
Spread the remaining 1/4c of flour on your rolling surface. Also set up a baking sheet with wax paper, and lightly flour the paper surface, this is what you will be placing your cut gnocchi on.
Coat your hands in the flour from the rolling surface and scoop a handful of the gnocchi dough onto the surface. Very gently, roll your dough along the table and form a rope roughly 3/4″ thick. Be very careful in this step as it’s the most crucial. You only want a layer of flour on the outside of the rope with the interior still being somewhat loose. You DO NOT want to get more flour through the entire dough, just the outside to hold it together. Too much flour and you’re left with dense lead pasta balls that will sit in the pit of your stomach ad infinitum… we’ve all had those before, you don’t want that!
Using a floured knife cut your rope into 1/2″ sections and place on the baking sheet. Don’t worry if they look small, they will expand slightly when you boil them. Repeat until done.
Put the baking sheet in the freezer to allow the gnocchi to set. Do not take out of the freezer until ready to use, you can drop them in the water while frozen, actually it’s best if you do to hold form. You can make your gnocchi well in advance, or even make bigger batches to keep frozen and take as you need it. However, if your gnocchi are going to spend significant time in the freezer either cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap, or more preferable, separate the gnocchi into serving sizes and put them into freezer friendly Ziploc bags. If you leave them uncovered in the freezer eventually they will take on an unpleasant freezer-burned flavor.
To cook the gnocchi bring salted water to a boil in a medium sauce pot. You don’t need a full blown roiling boil on this, bring to a boil and then reduce to medium-high heat for cooking. Add your gnocchi in small batches, no more than 15-20 at a time. Make sure you gently stir the water along the bottom edge of the pot as soon as you put them in to make sure the gnocchi don’t stick to the bottom. It will only take one or two minutes to cook through, they will float to the surface when done. Gently remove from the water using a slotted spoon.
So those are the directions… Now one of the most beautiful things about gnocchi is that they’re such a blank canvas. You can do so many things with them! You can remove them from the water and sautee them in butter to get a nice browned crispiness, or you can put them in sauce, tossed them with vegetables… you name it! You can also play with what you put in the gnocchi. Want to do lemon zest, go for it! Nutmeg, sure! Cayenne for some kick, you got it!
So I’ve given you the base, or you could say I’ve given you the easel, canvas and paint, now it’s time to make your own art! Let me see what you’ve got, please feel free to share your gnocchi dishes with me! I’ve put in a contact form, let me know your successes, or even failures. I look forward to hearing from you.
In the meantime, crack open a bottle of something and relax, life is short, enjoy it. 😉