It can be a polarizing dish, some folks hate it, some love it. But I would venture to say that most think that it only comes in the potato variety. And I’d have to say those people are 100% WRONG. Potato gnocchi is not the only gnocchi variety around, and it’s certainly not the best.
The best variety of gnocchi is hands down, ricotta gnocchi. Ricotta gnocchi is a specialty of Florence that has a light and airy texture with a melt in your mouth consistency. Gnocchi is a centuries old dish that stems back to the Roman times in Italy. The name itself is said to have come from the Italian word nocca for knuckle, gnocchi is essentially a dumpling and it’s insanely popular in Italy. It’s become increasingly popular over in America over the past decade.
Ricotta gnocchi most likely predates the potato gnocchi due to the fact that potatoes were introduced into the European diet much later in history. So ricotta gnocchi by default and history is the best. Ricotta gnocchi is simple to make, it’s basically ricotta cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, and some Parmesan. It acts as a perfect vessel for sauce, you’ll see a few posts in the future for these. The brown butter and sage sauce is a great intro into ricotta gnocchi that will make you fall in love with it.
The trick to preparing this gnocchi is, one using good quality gnocchi. I recommend using this brand M. Fierro & Sons, there cheese is literally out of this world. I get mine through Friends and Farms, but you can probably find their product at a authentic Italian grocer. It makes a world of difference. The second thing to remember is that you don’t want to “boil” your gnocchi, it’s just going to fall apart. You want to simmer the gnocchi and be sure to not over cook it.
This is a great recipe, I adapted it from Cook’s Illustrated, because duh if you need to learn how to make something for the first time you go to them.
Recipe – Ricotta Gnocchi with Brown Butter & Sage Sauce
16 oz. Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese
2 Slices of Good Quality White Sandwich Bread (1/2 Cup)
1 Large Egg
2 Tablespoons of Fresh Minced Basil
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
6 Tablespoons of Flour
1 /2 Cup Grated Parmesan
4 Tbsp. Butter
1 Small Shallot
2 Tsp. Minced Sage Leaves
1 Tsp. Lemon Juice
Step 1 – Strain the ricotta, if you buy good quality Italian ricotta you might not have any liquid. The cheese from Fierro’s doesn’t. If it does, strain it in a fine mesh strainer.
Step 2- Transfer to a bowl.
Step 3- Pulse bread in a food processor, then spread crumbs on a baking sheet, bake until golden brown.
Step 4 – Mix ricotta and breadcrumbs together in a food processor until you have a fine mixture.
Step 5 – Transfer to a bowl, then add your eggs, basil, and Parmesan to the ricotta pile.
Step 6- Mix together until it’s consistent, then refrigerate for 15 minutes. The dough needs be moist but not so moist that it essentially falls apart in your hands.
Step 7 – On a floured surface, portion out the dough into lemon sized pieces.
Step 8 – Roll them out 3/4 inch thick ropes and cut them into 3/4 inch lengths.
Step 9 – Transfer all the pieces to a piece of parchment paper.
Step 10- To prepare the sauce, melt the butter in the pan until it’s browned, be careful not to burn it. The smell of the butter should have a “nutty aroma” to it. Take it off the heat and add your shallots and sage, stir for about a minute. Stir in your lemon juice and allow it to stay warm.
Step 11- Prepare your gnocchi, bring a large pot of water to boil. Once it boils reduce the heat so it simmers. Now gently place the gnocchi into the water. The gnocchi is cooked once it floats, about 2 minutes.
Step 12- Once the gnocchi’s are cooked scoop them out with a slotted spoon and serve with your sauce. Enjoy!!