Cooking With Confidence
This photo makes me happy thinking about how good this was.
Economical, Main Dishes, Pasta, Vegetarian

Ricotta Gnocchi

by Nick

I’ve been trying to absorb The Zuni Cafe Cookbook lately. It’s a fantastic resource. It has some really complex recipes that are maybe out of my league for now, but it also has some simple ones. Or at least they are simple as long as you can find really fresh ricotta.

Because if you can find really good ricotta, then you can make these fluffy ricotta gnocchi.

Here’s the thing about this recipe. It might seem intimidating, but I have confidence in your abilities. These gnocchi only have 5 required ingredients plus a few cups of flour to form the little dumplings and some butter to sauce them with. But there is one trick: you have to be able to get good ricotta cheese.

Yield
Serves 4.

Just a moment please...

Print Recipe Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh ricotta
  • 2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted but not hot.
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (use the good stuff)
  • A pinch of salt
  • Flour for forming
  • 2 sage leaves, some lemon zest, or nutmeg (all optional, but I used chopped sage for my version)
  • Butter sauce:
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon water

Directions

1) It's very important to find a dry fresh ricotta for this. Try not to use machine-packed supermarket ricotta or it will most likely have too much liquid. If it doubt, ask someone to help.

2) Wrap the ricotta with cheesecloth and let it sit overnight over a bowl to drain well. As much as 1/2-1 cup of liquid will most likely drain out which is very important.

3) Put all your ricotta in a big bowl. Beat it well to break up all the curds. Add in all your ingredients. Eggs first and then the other stuff. Beat everything really well. You should have a light batter that stays firm.

4) For actually forming the gnocchi you will need your batter, plus a sheet pan covered in about a 1/4 inch layer of flour and a second sheet pan (or a plate or something) with some parchment paper where you can put the gnocchi when they come out of the flour.

5) Take a spoonful of batter, scrape it off with your finger into the flour and roll it around lightly. Then pluck it from the flour (yes pluck!) and put it on your holding plate.

6) I recommend testing one of these gnocchi please before you make all 40 or 50 of them. Form a little dumpling, dunk it in flour, and then gently drop it into lightly boiling water. A rolling boil will destroy your delicate creation. After about 3 minutes, it should be done. It will float almost immediately, but I found that mine needed a few more minutes after they started floating.

7) Assuming your test gnocchi holds together and is delicious, repeat with the rest of the batter.

8) Lightly poach (don't boil!) in salted water or if you want to get crazy, chicken stock.

9) For the sauce, put that stick of butter and the small amount of water in a large skillet. Once the butter is melted and lightly bubbling, I took my gnocchi out with a slotted spoon, let them drain for a second or two and dropped them right in the butter mixture.

Swirl them together and you are all set. Serve immediately.

Recipe from The Zuni Cookbook.

The ricotta is kind of tricky business. The problem is that you need a dry ricotta or else your batter will be too runny and you will never be able to form dumplings with it. Depending on who makes the ricotta, when it is made, and a number of other variables, it can contain differing levels of liquid.

The author of the book says, “Very wet ricotta can weep 1/2 cup liquid per pound (mine did). Don’t substitute machine-packed supermarket ricotta here; flavor issues notwithstanding, mechanical packing churns and homogenizes the curds and water – you’ll have trouble getting enough water back out.”

For some reason, I did not believe the very experienced Judy Rodgers when I tried this recipe for the first time. I bought some machine-pressed stuff at Whole Foods and thought it would be okay. No chance. I ended up with a really runny mess. I had to add about a cup of flour to the final product just so I could form the damn dumplings. Guess what, they were still pretty darn good, but I made a mental note to try to find some good ricotta at the farmer’s market.

Find some I did.

Fresh ricotta has much more moisture than one would think.

Fresh ricotta has much more moisture than one would think.

How to tell if your ricotta will work. The short answer is that it is hard to tell until you unwrap it and see how wet it is. But it seems like, and this is just in general, that if you buy it in a store and it has a sealed plastic layer (kind of like yogurt) it is probably processed too much. Use it for pancakes and not for gnocchi.

When in doubt though, just ask someone. They should be able to guide you to a product that will work. I had to turn to a farmer’s market booth before I found something that looked right.

But if you do get your ricotta and it turns out to be too wet, don’t throw it out! Feel free to just add some flour to the batter until it stiffens a bit. Judy Rodgers will curse you, but they will still be very good. Just a bit heavier.

Even if you can get really good ricotta, most likely it will still be too wet. This is easy to fix though if the cheese isn’t too processed. Wrap it up in some cheesecloth and let it sit over night. A few times throughout the day, I also twisted the cloth and forced out as much liquid as possible.

This is the setup.

This is the setup.

I ended up with about 1/2 cup of liquid from this little setup.

The Test. Once it is drained (or you can try this right away to see if your ricotta is too wet), put a teaspoon of it on a paper towel. It will be slightly moist directly under the cheese, but there should be no ring of liquid out from the cheese. Any ring means FAIL.

SUCCESS!

SUCCESS!

Once you are getting a passing result on the paper towel test, then you can relax. You shouldn’t have problems. Put all your ricotta in a big bowl. Beat it well to break up all the curds.

Curds are your friend.

Curds are no longer your friend.

Add in all your ingredients. Eggs first and then the other stuff. Beat everything really well. You should have a light batter that stays firm. If you form a peak with it, it should stay without a problem, not flow back into the mix.

Smooth like batter.

Smooth like batter.

I like to smooth out my batter which makes it easier to get even spoonfuls.

The setup. For actually forming the gnocchi you will need your batter, plus a sheet pan covered in about a 1/4 inch layer of flour and a second sheet pan (or a plate or something) with some parchment paper where you can put the gnocchi when they come out of the flour.

Take a spoonful of batter, scrape it off with your finger into the flour and roll it around lightly. Then pluck it from the flour (yes pluck!) and put it on your holding plate.

The second test. Do me a favor. Test one of these gnocchi please before you make all 40 or 50 of them. Form a little dumpling, dunk it in flour, and then gently drop it into lightly boiling water. A rolling boil will destroy your delicate creation.

A spoon of amazing.

A spoon of amazing.

After about 3 minutes, it should be done. It will float almost immediately, but I found that mine needed a few more minutes after they started floating. If it isn’t great you might need to adjust your batter by adding a bit more egg if the gnocchi doesn’t hold together or adjusting the parm or salt levels depending on flavor. Most likely, it will turn out delicious and then you can make them all at once!

Be sure to test one before you do all of them.

Turns out these guys are harder to shape then one would think.

I thought this was really fun, but it was a bit of work. Totally worth it though if you ask me. I would say it took me 10-15 minutes to make all of these guys. Also, obviously, I’m not expert at forming gnocchi. But guess what, I’m not charging anyone for these suckers. They taste the same even if they happen to be deformed. It’s what’s on the inside that counts…

An army. An army I would cuddle with.

An army. An army I would cuddle with.

After you roll them in the flour, I found it helpful to kind of cradle them in my palm to form a more uniform shape. Don’t press on them too much though. You want them to stay light and fluffy.

This helps form these guys.

This helps form these guys.

If you have a large pot, you can cook all of these at once. I used my 7 quart Le Creuset pan because I use it for everything to justify the ridiculous price. Otherwise, you might want to do them in two batches so as not to crowd them. otherwise they will stick together. Lightly poach (don’t boil!) in salted water or if you want to get crazy, chicken stock.

The sauce. Put that stick of butter and the small amount of water in a large skillet. As Judy says, let this cook and melt until the butter is “seething.” I’m not really sure what that means, but I let mine melt and then simmer for a few minutes. I took my gnocchi out with a slotted spoon, let them drain for a second or two and dropped them right in the butter mixture.

Swirl them together and you are all set. Serve immediately.

This photo makes me happy thinking about how good this was.

This photo makes me happy.

These guys do not keep for anything. You can freeze them before cooking, but once you cook them you need to eat them. Trust me. That won’t be a problem. These little dumplings are much lighter than potato gnocchi. They are an entirely different beast. Light, fluffy, and yet rich.

They may be a bit of work, but take your time and I’m confident that you can master them. Or at least get close which will still produce a very delicious product.

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14 comments on “Ricotta Gnocchi

  1. I love "an army I would cuddle with." That's hilarious. And I would, too! They look great, and the step-by-step is very informative.

  2. I second the making your own ricotta. It's very easy to make after you've made a batch of fresh mozzarella, or you can make "farmer's cheese" using just milk and buttermilk and it works great for ricotta gnocchi. I am a huge Zuni Cafe cookbook fan, and a big ricotta gnocchi fan, but oddly I never made this recipe. I have made another version,which is quite similar, with the farmers cheese.

  3. Another guess: Dupont Farmers Market… Blue Ridge Dairy?

    “I also twisted the cloth and forced out as much liquid as possible” careful with this, one does not desire to push out one’s preciously delicate and flavorful butter fat.

    Nice execution on the shaping. The only way I’ve ever done this is to pipe them right into the cooking liquid. There is an excellent recipe for cheese gnocchi w/browned butter sauce and fresh herbs that is fairly similar to these in the French Laundry Cookbook (follows the piping method).

  4. Thanks for the links and comments everyone. Nick, you are right. That is the ricotta I used I think. It worked just fine although it was still pretty wet.

    Good addition on the forcing out of liquid. Ideally, gravity will do this for you. I think it’s okay to coax out the liquid with a bit of pressure, but Nick makes a good point.

    Thanks everyone!

  5. These look great!!! My mom makes her own ricotta (well, it’s really farmer’s cheese because she uses cow’s milk to make it) and then makes gnocchi with it – deliiicious…

  6. Hmm, I haven’t seen ricotta at my farmer’s market — but I go to a really small one in Oakland. Maybe I’ll motivate this weekend and go to the bigger one (or even venture into a good one in SF!) Probably not. :)

  7. Nice! I actually have a bit of fresh ricotta from our Little Italy sitting in my fridge right now (draining!!), however, my ricotta is going into some homemade cannoli for tonight's Italian dinner party. Will def. keep gnocchi in mind for another day though. Looks like a fun project!

  8. Thanks for the great recipe!
    Instead of ricotta I picked curd cheese, which was already rather dry and might have been okay to use right away, and left it in a linen cloth overnight. The cloth itself was damp, but can’t tell how much liquid dripped out over night.
    Also I didn’t coat the gnocchi in flour. As far as I understand it’s only necessary to keep them from sticking while you’re waiting to simmer them. Instead I formed them with two teaspoons (scooping up some batter, scraping it off the other spoon and giving it a smooth, rounded side – repeat until you have vaguely 3 sides) and dropped them right into the water. They blew up a bit in the water and when they were done I dropped them into ice water to keep them from sticking together. To serve them I tossed them into a pan with some melted butter and lemon zest until they were warmed through.
    They were super fluffy and delicious! :D

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