Can you say NYOK-ee? Luckily, gnocchi are more difficult to pronounce than to actually make. And unlike the pronunciation, you have latitude on how to make, shape, and sauce these delectable little dumplings.
Beyond the standard ingredients of ricotta, eggs, flour, and cheese, you can go wild with additional flavors. It’s almost Halloween, so of course I added pumpkin to my time-tested recipe. What a difference. These are now my favorite gnocchi of all time.
That said, I have nothing against potatoes and nothing against Potato Gnocchi. I love them both. Ricotta Gnocchi are simply easier to make. Plus, the texture is light and lush.
But what’s with the wildly divergent recipes for this classic pasta dumpling? I encountered recipes for ricotta gnocchi that call for as little as ¼ cup of flour and as much as 2 cups of flour per pound of ricotta. That’s a huge variation–but it can be explained by texture preference. The more flour you use, the chewier the gnocchi. If you go bonkers with the flour, the result will be leaden little sinkers. The good news is that you have complete control over this. In Tips and Tricks below, I show you how to gradually adjust and test your gnocchi dough until, like Goldilocks, it’s just right for YOU.
There are numerous sauce choices for your gnocchi, from cream sauce, to tomato sauce, to meat sauce, to simple browned butter sauce. Because I want the subtle flavor of these gnocchi to hold the limelight, I chose a simple option—brown butter, garlic, and fresh sage. I know you are going to love these.
But before you dive into the recipe, be sure to read these Tips and Tricks:
Perfect Ricotta Gnocchi: Tips & Tricks
- Gnocchi, which belong to the dumpling family, can be big, little, round, oval, and/or grooved.
- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. It’s expensive but worth it.
- Not absolutely imperative, but for best results, drain the ricotta, covered, in a cheesecloth or paper towel-lined sieve set over a deep bowl for at least 8 hours in the fridge. One pound of ricotta will typically lose 2 tablespoons volume or ½ ounce weight in the draining process.
- If your ricotta is super dry, put it through a food mill to eliminate any clumps.
- You can control the lightness versus chewiness of your gnocchi by adding less or more flour. The lightest gnocchi have very little flour—say 6 tablespoons or so to 1 pound of ricotta. And yes, this is one very sticky dough. The chewiest gnocchi have considerably more flour–say 2 cups of flour to 1 pound of ricotta. This dough is reminiscent of pasta dough.
- If you don’t know whether you prefer super-light, super-chewy, or somewhere-in-between gnocchi, start with a lesser amount of flour, cook one gnocchi, taste, and continue adding flour, cooking, and tasting until you get exactly the right balance. Note that proportion for future gnocchi-making adventures.
- There is no need to knead Ricotta Gnocchi. In fact, this will produce a heavy result. Simply mix the ingredients together.
- Let the dough rest, covered with a towel, for ½ hour before shaping and ½ hour after shaping.
- You don’t have to shape gnocchi in the traditional way. More simply, shape the gnocchi using two spoons and either turn out onto a floured cloth or slip immediately into simmering water.
- It’s not essential but the traditional method of rolling and then impressing each gnocchi with grooves creates a pretty shape that holds the sauce well.
- If you haven’t discovered white rice flour for controlling the stickiness of pasta and gnocchi, without turning your precious creations into leather, run, don’t walk, and buy a bag at your local grocery store. If your store has a section for Bob’s Red Mill products, that’s where you’ll find it. Cleanup will be easier too, because rice flour isn’t sticky when wet and will not cling tenaciously to your worktop.
- Cook gnocchi in a large, deep quantity of simmering water (at least 2 quarts) and salt it heavily. The water should taste salty.
- Simmer, rather than vigorously boil the water in which you cook the gnocchi. This will help ensure that the gnocchi stay intact.
- Your gnocchi are done approximately 1 minute after they rice to the surface of the simmering water. Overcooking will cause them to first turn mushy and then disintegrate.
- I love gnocchi with a little texture, so usually saute them after cooking in a little unsalted butter, which of course turns into brown butter, which of course is perfectly delicious.
- You can freeze your shaped, uncooked gnocchi if you used the greater amount of flour. Leave then on the rice flour-dusted baking sheet and put into the freezer until frozen. Then, shake each one off and put into a freezer bag for longer storage. Thaw in the fridge before cooking.
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Garlic Sage Butter
The pumpkin does more than simply flavor this dough; it adds body. And even though the pumpkin flavor is subtle, the hint of cinnamon and nutmeg keeps reminding you that it’s there.
It’s more traditional to sauce the gnocchi immediately after removing them from the simmering water, but I prefer the added texture that results from briefly sautéing them. Either way is great though.
Technique Note It is virtually impossible to specify exactly how much flour you should use in your gnocchi dough. Flours vary from maker to maker, kitchen to kitchen, and day to day (humidity). Preference also plays into this. I prefer some bite and a bit of chewiness to the gnocchi, for which more flour is needed. Too much flour though and the gnocchi will be tough and leaden. See the directions below for testing the dough and adjusting it prior to cooking off the batch.
Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi
2 large eggs
1 pound (2 cups) ricotta, preferably drained (fresh, whole milk ricotta if possible; cow’s or sheep’s milk ricotta)
1 cup baked, mashed or riced fresh pumpkin (or sweetpotato)
1½ (7 ounces) cups all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 ounces), finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
rice flour in a shaker or fine mesh sieve
Garlic Sage Butter
4 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon slivered fresh sage
fine sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 gallon water
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- To make the gnocchi: In a medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the eggs and then add ricotta, pumpkin, flour, cheese, garlic, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- To test the gnocchi: In a large pot, bring a gallon of water and 1 tablespoon salt to a medium simmer. Use two spoons to form a small dumpling and carefully slip the test gnocchi into the simmering water. In 1-2 minutes, the gnocchi will bob to the surface. Continue cooking for 1 minute (no longer), and then remove with a skimmer or slotted spoon to a colander or sieve. Drain thoroughly.
- Now sample the gnocchi. If the dumpling is too soft and offers no resistance at all to the bite, add 2 tablespoons of flour to the dough, mix in, and repeat the test. If the second test doesn’t produce a light but slightly chewy gnocchi, add 2 more tablespoons of flour to the dough and test again. In my tests, 1½ cups of flour was just about perfect; however you may need a little more, depending on the moisture level of your ricotta.
- To shape the dough: When you have adjusted the flour in your dough to your liking, you can either continue to shape the rest of the gnocchi using the two spoons method or use the traditional rolling, cutting, and groove impressing method.
- For the latter, divide the dough into 8 equal size pieces, and with both hands and a light touch, roll each piece to a ½-inch thick rope. Use a pizza wheel or sharp knife to cut 1-inch lengths of dough from the rolls. You can now leave as is, or use a fork to impress grooves into each dumpling. Check out the spoon shaping process and the rolling shaping process using either a fork or a special gnocchi board. Transfer the formed gnocchi to a tray lined with a lightly rice floured kitchen towel.
- To cook the gnocchi: Fill a large, deep pot with water and salt generously. Bring to a simmer. Carefully slip half the gnocchi into the boiling water. In about 1 minute the gnocchi will bob to the surface. Continue cooking 30 seconds, and then remove with a skimmer or small sieve to a colander. Drain thoroughly. Continue until all gnocchi are cooked. If necessary, put into a heatproof bowl and keep warm in a 200° oven.
- To prepare the sauce: In a large sauté pan, heat the butter with the garlic and cook it slowly until it begins to brown. Add the sage and season with salt and pepper to taste. Keep warm over low heat.
- To brown the gnocchi (optional): If desired, heat a large sauté pan and add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter. Add a single layer of gnocchi and sauté lightly on two sides. Remove to a serving platter or individual serving dishes and nap with Garlic Sage Butter.
- To serve the gnocchi: Rewarm the gnocchi if needed and nap with Garlic Sage Butter.
- Sprinkle with parsley and serve immediately. Pass the cheese separately.
Makes about 14 dozen gnocchi.
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Copyright 2011 Susan S. Bradley. All rights reserved.