Gnocchi are small, hand-formed Italian dumplings. They can be made from a variety of starches like potatoes, semolina or breadcrumbs. This version is made with ricotta cheese and just enough flour to bind the cheese together.
Perhaps the easiest pasta of all, the only special equipment needed to make these tender dumplings is a little patience. The secret for light gnocchi is to add as little flour as possible during the initial mixing. Less flour will be needed if whole milk ricotta cheese is used. If fresh ricotta is used, draining it overnight to remove excess water is critical. Supermarket brand ricotta will work perfectly well and can be dried by placing it on several pieces of paper towels for an hour or two.
Working with small portions of the dough and enough extra flour to prevent sticking is the trick for working with this slightly sticky dough. Don’t be tempted to add too much flour during the initial mixing. Using a light touch to roll the ropes on a heavily floured board will make it easier. The excess flour on the outside of the dumplings will rinse off in the cooking water and won’t make the dumplings tough.
Because these are so delicate, make sure the cooking water isn’t a rolling boil. The water only needs to be simmering for this. Once cooked, they firm up nicely and are ready for your favorite sauce.
15-16 oz. whole milk ricotta, drained of excess moisture
1 egg, lightly beaten
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp salt
1 ½ c all purpose flour plus extra for rolling
Place the drained ricotta in a large mixing bowl (don’t skip the draining if using freshly made ricotta cheese). Add the egg, cheese, salt and 1 cup of flour. With a spatula, gently work the flour into the wet ingredients, adding the extra ½ cup of flour if needed to form a sticky ball of dough. Don’t overwork the dough at this point or the dumplings will be tough.
Place about ½ cup of flour on a board and place the ball of dough on the flour. Cut the ball of dough into 4-6 smaller portions.
Working with more flour, roll one of the small portions into a snake about the thickness of the tip of your small finger. Cut into 1-inch portions and set aside so they do not touch each other while rolling the rest. At this point, the gnocchi can be held for about an hour, uncovered, before cooking or cooked right away.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and lower the heat to simmer. Gently add the gnocchi, one at a time, to the water and cook until they float (about a minute or so). Simmer for another minute after they float and remove with a slotted spoon to a warm bowl while the remaining gnocchi are cooked.
Serve right away with your choice of sauce (tomato, butter or cheese sauces are good choices).