Lumps


Ricotta gnocchi with golden beets, summer squash and garlic

According to Wikipedia, the word gnocchi means “lumps”, and may derive from nocchio (a knot in the wood), or from nocca (knuckle). It has been a traditional Italian pasta type of probably Middle Eastern origin since Roman times. It was introduced by the Roman Legions during the enormous expansion of the empire into the countries of the European continent. In the past 2000 years each country developed its own specific type of small dumplings, with the ancient gnocchi as their common ancestor. In Roman times, gnocchi were made from a semolina porridge-like dough mixed with eggs, and are still found in similar forms today, particularly in Sardinia (where they do not contain egg, however, and are known as malloreddus). One variety, gnocchi di pane (literally bread noodles), is made from bread crumbs and is popular in Friuli and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Another variety from Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol is spinach gnocchi, called strangolapreti. This translates to “choke the priest.” The use of potato is a relatively recent innovation, occurring after the introduction of the potato to Europe in the 16th century.

Most people are familiar with potato gnocchi (which seem to be the most ubiquitous). However, ricotta gnocchi have been in vogue for quite a while. Ditto for chestnut gnocchi, made from chestnut flour.

Recipe and demo after the jump.

Prior to making the gnocchi, you’ll want to drain the ricotta of any excess moisture. You can place it in a strainer or colander or double-wrap it in cheesecloth. Suspend over a bowl and let it drain for 8 to 24 hours, refrigerated. Cheesecloth is more efficient as it absorbs moisture from the ricotta while gravity does the rest of the work.

Combine 1 cup ricotta cheese and 1 cup flour in a large bowl and mix with a fork, making sure to break up any large lumps. Ideally the mixture should eventually look like this:

Make a well in the center, add 1 egg, a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly milled black pepper. Starting at the inside of the well, slowly fold the egg into the flour with the tines of a fork in a circular motion or until the mixture forms into a soft, pliable dough.

You’ll want to knead the dough as little as possible. Shape the dough into a ball, then divide it into four portions. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Lightly flour a cutting board or your work area. You want enough flour so that the dough won’t stick. If you add too much flour, the dough will be difficult to roll.

Take a portion of gnocchi dough and roll it out into a long, thin cylinder and cut into pieces. You can leave them as is or run them on the reverse side of the tines of a fork to fom ridges that characterize traditional gnocchi.

Drop a few at a time into salted boiling water. Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes until gnocchi rises to the top. Lift out with a slotted spoon. Ideally, your sauce should be ready once the gnocchi are done. Top with sauce and serve immediately.

1 bunch golden beets, trimmed (reserve the greens for another use)
2 small summer squash, trimmed and cut into matchsticks
1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
unsalted butter
kosher salt, to taste
freshly milled black pepper, to taste
minced onion chives

Place beets in a Pyrex baking dish or roasting pan and add a splash of water. Cover with aluminum foil and roast in a pre-heated 350 F oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until beets are tender. Let cool. Peel should slip right off. Chop the beets into approx. 1″ dice.

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until the garlic takes on a bit of color, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add squash and beets to the pan. Sauté until vegetables are lightly glazed with the garlic butter, about 2 to 3 minutes. Check seasoning and stir in chives.

6 thoughts

  1. Ever since I was introduced to Ricotta Gnocchi, I stopped making the potato variety. So much easier and pretty fool proof. Great explanation and demo of the technique!

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  2. Thanks Chris.

    Ricotta gnocchi is now a staple in my kitchen although I do make the usual potato version from time to time. I think what I like best about ricotta gnocchi is that it goes well with a wide variety of vegetable preparations. You can adapt it according to the season or what you might have on hand.

    Sungold tomatoes aren’t in yet (think late July to early September). Paired with fresh corn kernels shaved from a cob and some onion chives — now that’s a combination I’m looking forward to.

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  3. According to Carol Field, author of the Italian Cookbook In Nonna’s Kitchen, the word gnocci is actually derived from the Italian word for knuckles. This rings true to me, in part because of the size and shape, and the practice of using a fork to deliberately put grooves in them. Google translation of the word “knuckles” into Italian returns “nocche”. Either way, your dish looks delicious.

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  4. Pingback: Ricotta Gnocchi with Marcella’s Tomato Sauce « The Spamwise Chronicles

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