Saturday, March 28, 2015

ricotta gnocchi.

For most of my life, the art of making homemade potato gnocchi has alluded me. Being half-Italian I thought gnocchi, pasta, and pizza making was in my blood. Instead I've discovered that the only thing in my blood is my ability to make a floury mess.   

And yet I still continue to try at least once every couple of months.  I check the weather to ensure it isn't humid. I buy perfect russet potatoes from the farmers markets.  I do everything by the book and still I fail. My gnocchi ends up tough or it disintegrates in the water and with each try I find myself getting more and more frustrated. Italian grandmothers have been making homemade gnocchi for years WHY CAN'T I?!

When I stumbled across this recipe for ricotta gnocchi on the Serious Eats website that promised to come together in 30 MINUTES and not give you the kind of trouble you typically encounter with potato gnocchi, I figured this was fate telling me to try something new.  

The resulting gnocchi are perfect. I practically wept into my bowl of pasta because I felt as if I finally cracked some kind of long-term goal of mine.  They are easy.  Absurdly easy.  They are fluffy and flavorful and pillows of dreaminess.  Sure you can dress them up with pesto and other fancy sauces but I think they are best in tomato sauce and a grating of parmesan.   

Ricotta Gnocchi

As Kenji notes in his post you want to use good quality ricotta that doesn't have stabilizers.  At the Whole Food's near me there are a couple of choices like that.  Your neighborhood cheese shop should also have high quality ricotta.   

Serves 3-4

12 ounces best quality ricotta cheese (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 ounce finely grated Parmesan cheese (about 1/2 cup), plus more for serving
4 to 6 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Semolina flour, for dusting
2 cups your favorite marinara sauce
Extra-virgin olive oil
Minced fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, or chives

Line a large plate with three layers of paper towels or a clean dish towel. Transfer ricotta directly to paper towels and spread with a rubber spatula. Place another triple layer of paper towels or a clean dish towel on top and press down firmly with the palms of your hands to blot excess moisture. Peel off upper paper towels.

Place a large bowl on a scale and zero the scale. Scrape ricotta into bowl to weigh. Remove excess ricotta to leave exactly 8 ounces. Reserve excess ricotta for another use. Add Parmesan, 3 1/2 ounces of flour, whole egg, and egg yolk to bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Combine mixture with a rubber spatula. It should be sticky but not loose. Add flour a tablespoon at a time if it is still very moist after kneading with the spatula for 1 minute.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and dust the top with flour. Flatten into a 4- to 6-inch disk and cut into quarters using a bench scraper. Working one piece at a time, roll dough into a log about 6 inches long, dusting with flour as necessary. Split log in half and roll each half into a log about 12 inches long and 3/4-inch wide. You should end up with 8 logs.

Using your bench scraper, cut each log into 8 to 10 gnocchi. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet dusted in semolina flour. Shake to lightly coat gnocchi and prevent sticking. At this point, gnocchi can be frozen. Transfer baking sheet to freezer until gnocchi are completely frozen, about 30 minutes. Transfer gnocchi to a zipper-lock freezer bag and freeze for up to 2 months. Cook directly from frozen, adding a few minutes to cooking time.

To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat sauce in a separate saucepan until hot but not simmering. Add gnocchi to pot, stir gently, and cook until gnocchi float for 30 seconds, about 3 minutes total. Drain gnocchi, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water. Add gnocchi and 1/4 cup of cooking water to pot with sauce and bring to a hard boil, stirring gently. Add more pasta water to thin sauce to desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Stir in a big drizzle of olive oil and a handful of chopped fresh herbs. Transfer to a large serving plate. Sprinkle with more herbs and Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with more olive oil. Serve immediately.

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