Thursday, 22 September 2011

Gnocchi di Ricotta

I have long known that fresh gnocchi in a restaurant (particularly in a restaurant in Italy!) is approximately a billion times nicer than that bought pre-packaged in a supermarket. Light, velvety & pillowy as compared to heavy and a bit stodgy & claggy.

However I had totally bought into the old myth that home-made gnocchi have to be labour-intensive and time-consuming. It seems that is not the case at all and even better I read that ricotta gnocchi (a traditional Florentine pasta) is even easier to prepare and even lighter than the more common Northern Italian potato gnocchi: super quick too.

The gnocchi should be served as soon as they're cooked, so make sure you have your chosen sauce ready - I had some of my amazing ragu that I’d cooked up a big batch of ages ago in the freezer so I just defrosted and reheated that. A simple tomato sauce would also be good or a "deconstructed" pesto or even just sage butter.

Refrigerating the gnocchi for fifteen minutes firms up the dough and makes it easier to work with and the finished gnocchi freezes very well and will keep for one month. (After that, they're still safe to eat, but the "fresh" quality diminishes.) Spread the extra gnocchi out on a sheet pan and place in the freezer until the gnocchi are firm. Then transfer to a freezer bag or container. Frozen gnocchi can be put directly into boiling water to cook.

So here we are: recipe of my own but inspired by very many I saw online.

Gnocchi di Ricotta
Serves 3

250g ricotta
1 medium egg yolk
¼ tsp fine sea salt
75 g freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino
50-75g plain white flour (I actually used 00 as I had just bought some) plus extra for dusting
freshly grated nutmeg

Discard any excess liquid that the Ricotta’s packaging may contain, then add the ricotta to a strainer lined with a muslin square. Leave to drain any excess liquid for at least an hour.

Add the drained ricotta, egg yolk, salt, nutmeg & pecorino or parmesan to a large bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add the flour and stir until just combined. It may be quite sticky - refrigerate for 15 minutes then check the texture. You want it a little tacky but not so much that it is just clinging to your fingers. Add more flour if necessary but don’t overdo it as more flour = denser gnocchi and you want these as light & fluffy as possible.

Refrigerate for a further 15 minutes.

When you are ready to shape the gnocchi put a large pan of salted water on to boil and start reheating your sauce.

Generously flour a board and your hands, take a squash ball size dollop of the dough and place onto the board. Dust with flour then roll into a middle-finger thick roll.

Dust a knife with flour as well the cut the roll of dough into little pillows about ¾ to 1 inch long - place each on a floured baking paper lined tray. Dust again with flour.

Repeat with the rest of the dough. Then make little grooves in the gnocchi by rolling them off the back of a fork with your thumb (you can just leave them as plain pillows if you like).

When the gnocchi are shaped and the water is boiling add the gnocchi and stir once, so they don’t stick to the bottom.  Cook until they start floating on the surface of the water - about 2 - 4 minutes depending on their size then cook for a minute or so more.

Drain and serve with a sauce of your choice immediately.

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