Ricotta Cheese and Zucchini Gnocchi / Gnocchi di Ricotta e Zucchine
If ever there was a homemade pasta that put the fear of God in cooks, it has to be gnocchi, those light as a feather dumplings that somehow turn out all wrong, tasting heavy and chewy. Most people are familiar with potato gnocchi tossed in tomato sauce, and over the years I have showcased these and many other types on Ciao Italia, including squash, semolina, spinach and my daughter Beth’s favorite, ricotta cheese and zucchini gnocchi. The technique for making them has everything to do with a light hand and a nimble thumb. Using ricotta cheese in place of potatoes makes a cloud- light dumpling with a very tender texture. Adding the zucchini gives great taste, a novel way to get veggies into your diet and a chic look. Most importantly, knowing how much flour not to add when making the dough is the key to perfect gnocchi. There are many sauces for gnocchi besides tomato, including butter and cheese, sage and butter, pesto sauce and parsley sauce.
- 1 medium zucchini, ends trimmed, and cut in half
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons grated Pecorino cheese
- 16 Oneounce container whole milk ricotta cheese, well drained
- 1 egg slightly beaten
- 2 cups prepared tomato sauce, (enough to dress 4 dozen) (See our recipe for Tomato and Basil Sauce.)
- Grate the zucchini on the smallest holes of a stand cheese grater. Wrap the zucchini in a double thickness of paper towels and squeeze the excess water out. The zucchini needs to be very dry otherwise too much flour will be used and your gnocchi will have you tearing out your hair. Aim for 1 cup of well squeezed zucchini. Set aside.
- Heap the flour on a work surface, add the salt and pecorino cheese and blend well with your hands. Make a hole in center of the flour mixture and plop the ricotta cheese in it. Flatten the cheese a bit with a spoon to make a slight depression in the center of the cheese and add the egg and zucchini. It will look like a mess.
- Roll up your sleeves and use your hands to blend everything into a ball of dough. It will be abit sticky, but only add more flour if the dough is so soft that it will not roll into a slightly tacky ball. Otherwise leave it alone and allow it to sit covered for 5 minutes while you wash the excess dough bits off your hands.
- You will find that as the dough rests, it will be easier to handle. Use a dough scraper to help you move and turn the dough to knead it. It does not have to be smooth, just holding together. To test if you have enough flour in the dough for the gnocchi to hold together in cooking, drop one or two in a small pan of boiling water. If they rise to the top and hold together and do not disintegrate, congratulations, you are good to go! If they fall apart, you need to add more flour.
- Divide the ball into quarters and roll each quarter out on a lightly floured surface into an 18 inch long rope the thickness of your middle finger. With a small knife cut 1 inch pieces from each rope. Here’s the fun part: use a fork, or butter paddle to roll each gnoccho with your thumb off the tines of the fork or butter paddle to create ridges or lines on one side; as you do, a little depression will form on the other side. Alternately, you can just use the cut pieces without forming the lines.
- Place the gnocchi on a towel lined baking sheet in single layers as you form them.
- To cook and sauce: decide how many to serve. Gnocchi are a first course so four dozen will serve 8. To cook for 8, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of salt; Drop the desired amount of gnocchi by hand a few at a time into the pot and cook them just until they bob to the surface.
- Use a pasta scoop with a handle, or a sieve to fish them out of the water; be sure to shake off all the excess water and transfer them to a skillet with the waiting tomato sauce.
- Heat the gnocchiin the sauce and toss them gently to coat well. Serve them as a first course and pass the cheese for sprinkling on top.
- Want to make them ahead? These freeze beautifully after being cooked first, then flash frozen on baking sheets in single layers and transferred to plastic bags. They will keep for 3 months. When ready to cook, take out the desired amount and allow them to defrost, then reheat them in the sauce of your choice.
This recipe was featured on Season 20 - Episode 2011.