Recipe: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

A traditional Florentine pasta, ricotta gnocchi is the lighter, hipper cousin to northern Italy's potato gnocchi.This gnocchi cooks up as soft, mild-flavored dumplings. They make a great base for any sauce, especially a simple tomato sauce. And if we'd known how easy it was to make ricotta gnocchi, we would have added it to our cooking rotation years ago!
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The gnocchi should be served as soon as they're cooked, so be sure to have the the sauce ready. We like to prep the ingredients for both the sauce and the dough at the same time, make the dough, and then prepare the sauce while the dough is resting.

Refrigerating the gnocchi for fifteen minutes firms up the dough and makes it easier to work with.

Gnocchi freezes very well and will keep for one month. (After that, they're still safe to eat, but the "fresh" quality diminishes.) Spread the extra gnocchi out on a sheet pan and place in the freezer until the gnocchi are firm. Transfer to a freezer bag or container. Frozen gnocchi can be put directly into boiling water to cook.

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Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

Serves 4

One 16-ounce container whole-milk ricotta
1 large egg
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 to 1 cup flour

Set a strainer line with three coffee filters or paper towels over a bowl. Add the ricotta and let the cheese drain for about an hour. (This can be done several days in advance.)

In a large bowl, mix the strained ricotta, egg, cheese, and 3/4 cup of the flour until all ingredients are incorporated. Cover and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

Check the dough by rolling a bit in your hand. It should be a bit tacky. If it clings to your fingers like bubble gum, incorporate more flour one tablespoon at a time until you reach a tacky, workable consistency. Refrigerate for another 15 minutes.

Before shaping, put a large pot of water on the stove to bring to a boil. Sprinkle a baking sheet with flour and set it close to your work space.

Sprinkle your hands and work surface with a little flour. Break off a tennis-ball sized piece of the dough and roll it into a thick log about 3/4-inch thick.

Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the log into 3/4" pieces. You can leave them as little 'pillows' or shape them into the traditional grooved gnocchi by rolling them off the back of a fork with your thumb.

Transfer this batch to the baking sheet and toss with flour to prevent sticking. Repeat rolling process with the remaining dough.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and half of the gnocchi. Gently stir the gnocchi to make sure they don't stick. Once they bob to the surface, let them cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove gnocchi with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander set over a bowl to finish draining.

Repeat with second batch of gnocchi.

Toss the gnocchi with sauce and serve immediately.

Related: Rich No-Cream Wild Mushroom Pasta Sauce
PLUS... Recipe: Ricotta Spaetzle

(Images: Emma Christensen for the Kitchn)

(Originally published May 22, 2008)

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