If you’ve never had ricotta gnocchi, you owe it to yourself to have them for dinner one of these days. When made well, these little morsels are light as a feather and possess almost none of the starchy leadeness that you might occasionally encounter with the more common potato gnocchi. They have a creamy sweetness that shines, particularly when paired with seasonal vegetables.
Ricotta gnocchi are a mainstay at my dinner table, appearing like clockwork several times year-round. I especially adore them in late summer, with barely-cooked kernels of sweet corn, sliced Sungold cherry tomatoes, slivered scallions and sweet cream butter.
For tonight’s dinner, I’ve resorted to one of the simplest tomato sauces in my repertoire. You can make it in less than an hour, for not very much money and effort.
Ricotta gnocchi with Marcella’s tomato sauce
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:
Here’s a close-up shot:
Make a well in the center, add 1 egg, a pinch of kosher salt and a small pinch of nutmeg. 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.
Cut the dough into approx. 1/4″ pieces, then gradually drop them into a pot of boiling water. Let the gnocchi cook for 1-2 minutes. When they rise to the top, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
The sauce is adapted from Marcella Cucina.
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 tablespoons unsalted French butter (regular unsalted butter is fine)
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
Combine all ingredients into a saucepan. Simmer, partially covered, on low heat until droplets of fat separate from the sauce, about one hour. Stir occasionally.
When done, the sauce should look something like this:
Taste for salt and pepper. Discard onion.
Time: About 90 minutes, counting the time it takes to make the gnocchi from scratch. Gnocchi dough can be made a day ahead.