July 4, 2017
There are three main types of gnocchi; potato gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi and semolina gnocchi. (Semolina gnocchi have the least in common with other types of gnocchi; they are often much larger and taste more like polenta than pasta). Potato gnocchi are probably the most common variety, with a fluffy, often slightly chewy, texture – they are made from a simple mixture of potato, flour, egg and salt. Ricotta gnocchi are more delicate, with a smoother texture because they are made using ricotta in place of potato.
Gnocchi are usually shaped like little pillows or little rounds with grooves to better absorb their sauce – see images below for both types. There are thousands of variations on gnocchi worth exploring, but this recipe is for a basic ricotta gnocchi. The best results come from using fresh, high quality, whole-milk ricotta cheese – if you have the time, it pays off to make your own. Feel free to put your own spin on these gnocchi once you feel comfortable making the dough – it’s always nice to incorporate herbs and vegetables that are in season; spinach in the spring, parsley in the fall, butternut squash in the winter, beets in the summer.
Heavy tomato or meat sauces can easily overwhelm the delicate flavor of the gnocchi. I prefer to serve my gnocchi with a sage butter sauce. It’s very quick to make, and it lets the pasta be the star of the dish – I’ve included the recipe for the sauce a little further down.
2 cups ricotta*
½ cup grated parmesan
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
semolina flour (or regular flour to prevent sticking)
* Depending on the type of ricotta you use, you may need more or less flour to roll out the gnocchi. They should be firm enough in step 3 to be pliable, but with as little flour as possible to ensure a creamy texture.
1. Bring pot of salted water to a boil.
2. While water is boiling, combine ricotta Parmesan olive oil eggs and salt with a whisk in a large mixing bowl. Add flour slowly until dough is only slightly sticky to the touch.
3. Dust work surface with flour to prevent sticking. Cut the dough into manageable pieces. Roll out each piece into a snake of desired thickness and slice across to create pillows – try to keep the size of the gnocchi similar so they will cook evenly. If desired, use the back of a fork to create little indentations so the gnocchi will better absorb their sauce.
4. Once cut, place the gnocchi on a tray lined with semolina flour to prevent sticking. At this point, the gnocchi can be set aside or frozen on the sheet pan (wait until they are frozen before transferring to a container, this prevents sticking).
5. Cook gnocchi in boiling water about 2 minutes, or until the gnocchi float to the top. Strain and set aside. To cook frozen gnocchi, simply drop straight into a pot of boiling water as before – they may require an extra minute or so to cook through. Again, you’ll know they’re ready when they float to the surface.
Browned Butter Sage Sauce
6 tablespoons butter
2 tbsp chopped sage
½ tsp lemon zest (optional)
1. Heat a large pan on medium. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the pan and drop in the chopped sage. Watch carefully until the butter begins to brown and you can smell the caramelization. Turn heat down to low.
2. Drop in your reserved gnocchi and coat evenly. Garnish with lemon zest and serve!