Recipe: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

Recipe: Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

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Emma Christensen
Apr 3, 2018
(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

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, whether it's brown butter or 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!

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The gnocchi should be served as soon as they're cooked, so be sure to have 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 15 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.

Tester's Notes

Ricotta gnocchi is potato gnocchi's lighter, fluffier, easier-to-make cousin, which is exactly why you should give it a try immediately. I started making this type of gnocchi as a way to use up good ricotta I'd buy from my local Italian store (otherwise I'd just eat it with a spoon since it's my most favorite of all cheeses). Now I make it whenever I am craving puffy little pillows of cheesy goodness that are as versatile — try them with brown butter, pesto, or the most simple marinara sauce — as they are comforting.

A word of advice: While ricotta gnocchi is less finicky to make than potato gnocchi (since there is less risk of overworking the dough and getting tough, gummy results), it's still wise to follow directions. I've made many batches of ricotta gnocchi that end up falling apart as soon as they hit the pot of boiling water.

The secret is to drain the cheese for longer than you think — overnight really is best — and if you do cook them from frozen, cook them in small batches so that the cold dumplings don't lower the water temperature too much, which can cause things to turn to mush.

- Sheela, April 2018

Easy Ricotta Gnocchi

Serves 4

  • 16 ounces

    whole-milk ricotta cheese

  • 3/4 to 1 cup

    all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup

    finely grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

  • 1

    large egg

  • 1 teaspoon

    plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt, divided

  • For serving:
  • 5 tablespoons

    unsalted butter

  • 6

    fresh sage leaves, or 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme

  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Line a strainer with 3 layers of paper coffee filters, paper towels, or cheesecloth. Fit the strainer over a large bowl and place the ricotta in the strainer. Refrigerate and let the cheese drain for at least 1 hour or, even better, overnight. (This can be done several days in advance.)

Transfer the strained ricotta to a large bowl. Add 3/4 cup of the flour, Parmesan or Pecorino, egg, and 1 teaspoon of the salt, and stir until all the 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 1 tablespoon at a time until you reach a tacky, workable consistency. Refrigerate for 15 minutes more.

Before shaping, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Sprinkle a rimmed 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 crosswise 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 the rolling process with the remaining dough.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt to the water and 1/2 of the gnocchi. Gently stir the gnocchi to make sure they don't stick. Once they bob to the surface, let cook for 2 minutes more. Using a slotted spoon and ensuring that they are drained well, transfer the gnocchi to individual shallow bowls. Repeat with cooking the remaining gnocchi.

Meanwhile, cook the butter with herbs in a large skillet over medium-low heat until golden-brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle lightly with salt. To serve, drizzle the butter over the gnocchi in their individual bowls and serve immediately, garnished with grated Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The ricotta can be strained up to 3 days ahead of time. While the gnocchi is best cooked fresh, it can be prepared and frozen, uncooked, for up to 1 month. Spread the shaped gnocchi out on a rimmed baking sheet in an even layer, freeze until firm, then transfer to a freezer bag or container. Frozen gnocchi can be put directly into boiling water to cook — cook it in 4 batches, instead of 2, to prevent the cold gnocchi from lowering the temperature of the boiling water, which can cause the gnocchi to fall apart and turn into mush.

Storage: Leftover cooked gnocchi can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Other ways to serve: The best sauces to serve gnocchi with are light, as to not overpower the delicate flavor and texture of the gnocchi. Beyond brown butter, a simple tomato sauce or pesto are great.

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