For years I could not figure out the appeal of gnocchi. The small Italian dumplings can easily be found on restaurant menus and at the supermarket but the few times I dared try it, I found it heavy and gummy so I typically avoided ordering it. Then one day I ordered a small bowl as a primi at an Italian resto and realized how good it can be. The light, airy dumplings were bathed in a fresh tomato sauce – it was a revelation. I did some research and discovered that gnocchi are actually very easy to make. They are most often made with potato, however, I make a version with ricotta cheese that is very quick and simple to prepare. It makes an impressive starter or main dish for a summer meal. You can serve it with the fresh basil pesto that follows or top with your favourite sauce.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 3 to 4 as a starter (primi) course
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 to 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for flouring countertop (amount of flour needed will depend on how wet your ricotta is)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, 1 cup flour, salt and egg. Mix until combined.
- Check texture of the dough. If it is sticky and wet, add additional flour 1/4 cup at a time. Mix into dough and re-check. Continue adding flour a little at a time until you reach the desired consistency. Dough should be moist and pliable but not sticky.
- Once the dough is the correct consistency, sprinkle about 1/4 cup flour onto a clean countertop. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of dough onto counter and roll it into a long ‘snake’, about 1/2″ in diameter. Like this:
- Flatten the dough slightly with a fork, leaving groove marks in the dough. Cut into pieces approximately 1″ long. Set gnocchi aside on a plate. Repeat the process with the remainder of the dough.
- Fill a large stock pot with water and add 1 Tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil. Add gnocchi and cook until the dumplings float to the surface, approximately 1 to 2 minutes.
- Drain cooked gnocchi into a colander and run under cold water to stop them from cooking further. (If you are not serving the gnocchi immediately, you can toss them with a tablespoon of olive oil and refrigerate until ready to proceed with the next step).
- Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add gnocchi and saute until browned on one side. Turn them over and brown the other side. Remove from pan and toss with your favourite sauce (see suggestion below).
Fresh Basil Pesto
Pesto originated in the city of Genoa, Italy. Traditionally, it is made with pine nuts, however I tend to prefer it without the nuts. You can always throw in a tablespoon of toasted pine nuts if you’d prefer.
- 1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves, stems removed
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
- salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, plus additional for grating on top
- In a food processor*, add all ingredients and pulse until combined and a thick sauce forms. Toss with your favourite gnocchi or pasta and grate additional parmesan on top.
*If you do not have a food processor, you can use the traditional method of mashing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. I usually use a Cuisinart hand blender with the ‘processor’ cup attachement instead of a full sized food processor.
Bon Appetit & Enjoy!