I call ricotta gnocchi “fast food” Italian, as with just a little practice you can make ricotta gnocchi in as little time as it takes you to boil the water to cook them in. This really is a dish, sauce included, that can be prepared and cooked in under 30 minutes which makes it a fabulous choice for busy mid-week meals.
Gnocchi are basically dumplings, and can be made of almost any ingredient that can be formed into a dough. Gnocchi (pronounced NYOK-ee) are made in most regions in Italy, although they are generally made with different ingredients in each. Some gnocchi are round while others are oval and grooved to hold the sauce. Well-made gnocchi should be delicate enough to be described as tender and pillowy, yet sturdy enough to hold their own when combined with sauce.
If you are a beginner to gnocchi making, I would suggest starting with ricotta gnocchi rather than potato. Potato gnocchi take a little more practice to get the texture right, and tend to be heavier, as they are often overworked. Add an egg to the dough, which helps hold it together. With experience you can eliminate the egg if you choose, and create an even lighter dough. As with any simple dish, choosing the best ingredients is important.
I recently had family visiting and decided to make an herb version using up some of the fresh herbs growing in my garden. As with any simple dish, choosing the best ingredients is important. When buying ricotta cheese, choose fresh if at all possible, but if not, choose whole milk ricotta, not reduced fat. I have tried multiple flours, including tipo ’00’ (cake flour) and semolina, but I find all-purpose flour works just as well.
Since this is such an easy and quick sauce that is barely cooked, use excellent tomatoes. Open a can of diced tomatoes and taste them right from the can with a spoon; if they are not delicious in this natural state, do not use them. Good canned tomatoes should have a fresh, naturally sweet, rich flavor right from the can. I prefer imported chopped tomatoes, and choose San Marzano if they are available. You do need to use fresh herbs for this recipe as well as the sauce for the best results. Luckily, fresh basil, parsley, and mint are now readily available in most grocery stores.
Deborah Mele 2014
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Medium Garlic Cloves, Minced (About 2 Teaspoons)
- 1 (28-Ounce) Can Chopped Tomatoes, Preferably Italian
- 4 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Basil Leaves, Divided
- Kosher Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
- 1 Pound Full Fat Ricotta Cheese (See Note Above)
- 3/4 Cup Grated Parmesan Cheese, Divided
- 1 Large Egg, Lightly Beaten
- 1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley Leaves
- 2 Teaspoons Finely Chopped Fresh Mint Leaves
- 1 1/2 Cups All-purpose Flour, Divided
- Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Cheese, Freshly Torn Basil For Serving
- In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering, then add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant but not browned, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, stir, and bring to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to a simmer, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red pepper flakes.
- Add 2 tablespoons chopped basil, stir, and cook for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.
- Season to taste with more salt and pepper as desired.
- In a bowl, place the Ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup of grated cheese, egg, parsley, mint, remaining tablespoon basil, and 1 teaspoon of salt.
- Add 1 cup of the flour and mix with a spoon until you have formed a shaggy dough.
- Dump the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead a few times with your hands, adding an additional tablespoon or two of flour if the dough is too sticky.
- Divide the dough into fist size pieces, and roll into long logs as thick as your thumb, lightly dusting with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Cut into 1 inch slices and gently place on a lightly floured baking sheet.
- Continue with the rest of the dough in this manner.
- If not using immediately, place in the refrigerator.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, and drop the gnocchi into the water.
- Remove as soon as most have floated to the top, 4 to 5 minutes.
- Drain in a colander, and return to the pot.
- Place a large scoop of sauce on the gnocchi and gently shake the pot to mix.
- Serve in individual bowls with an additional spoonful of sauce on top, sprinkled with cheese, basil, and olive oil.