Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ricotta Gnocchi - Daring Cooks May Challenge

And from the Daring Bakers an offspring is born. The inaugural May 2009 Daring Cooks' Challenge was brought to us by Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina

Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.

Equipment required:

- Sieve
- Cheesecloth or paper towels
- Large mixing bowl
- Rubber spatula
- Tablespoon
- Baking dish or baking sheet
- Wax or parchment paper
- Small pot
- Large skillet
- Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

Verdict: I've never made gnocci from scratch and had this fear that it was going to be a disaster. On the contrary, it wasn't even a big deal. If you want to make it even more fun, put on some upbeat Italian music and imagine yourself living the life in Tuscanny.
I wasn't very daring and only used the sage. Next time I'd add more flavour - the sage is a wonderful flavour addition and giving it some nutmeg was a good suggestion that I'll follow next time. StumbleUpon


Christo Gonzales said...

I have heard about ricotta gnocchi - kudos to you for pulling it off these look great!

Elle said...

They look just yummy! Yah for first Daring Cook challenge!

Lori Lynn said...

Congrats on the challenge. I've never made gnocchi, might have to give it a try after reading this.

OhioMom said...

I am totally impressed and in awe of your challenge .. never have made gnocci and still haven't tried making your perogis. So much to try, so little time :)

Melissa said...

Good for you for participating. I know you say it's no big deal, but I still don't feel ready to work with this stuff yet. Nice job!

Lauren said...

Mmm, your gnocchi looks amazing!! I love your pictures =D.

Coco Bean said...

Yeh, us too, we used sage only, but it was great with the cheese! I was born and raised in Toronto, but I live in Montreal now (as to your comment on our blog) but oddly enough I am hopping on the 6:45am train tomorrow morning to Toronto!
Your blog is beautiful, thank you for stopping by and saying hi. It's always nice to meet more food blogging Canadians (especially from my home town)!

Chickiedoodle said...

Looks fantastic. There is not a thing in the world wrong with pure sage!

Arundathi said...

gorgeous first challenge...

Care said...

Your gnocchi look wonderful! I love your step-by-step photos. Good job!

shambo said...

Boy, that looks good. I'm another one who has never made gnocchi, but I sure do enjoy eating it. You make it sound almost doable.

Susan/Wild Yeast said...

Just beautiful! I want to go to sleep on that sage leaf.

abby said...

i hadn't made ricotta gnocchi either and like you was suprised at how easy it was to pull together. your look great!

Dharm said...

Oh Well Done! I wanted to do this too but riccotta is just too darned expensive over here. Considered doing the alternative version but I've been stuck for time.. yes, I know, excuses, excuses. Your gnocchi looks just great!

Anonymous said...

Ricotta gnocchi looks excellent! Great job!

grace said...

wow, giz. you've definitely earned a round of applause from me--bravo!

hungryandfrozen said...

This looks and sounds incredibly good - and so much lighter than the potatoey original. Brava!

kat said...

Sounds like this was a success for you, congrats!

Pam said...

Gret job...I still have never tried making gnocchi. This looks delicious.

♥Rosie♥ said...

WOW Giz hats off to you, your ricotta gnocchi looks amazing!!

Rosie x

Princess of the Universe said...

I'm not nearly organized enough to plan anything like that over 24 hours in advance :P

Bunny said...

Bravo Giz, your ricotta gnocchi look fantastic!

Eat4Fun said...

Congratulations on completing the first ever DC challenge. Sounds like you had a great time with this challenge. The sage leaf photo is pretty cool! Very nice job!

noble pig said...

Glad yours turned out as it can be very tempremental. Nice work.

That Girl said...

I'd be equally as nervous about making gnocchi by myself - I'm so impressed by yours!

Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

I'll take your recommendation and crank up some Pavarotti and imagine myself in the heart of Italy...preferably being taught cooking lessons by some "easy on the eyes" Italian.

Lori said...

Great job. I think the simpleness of sage or nutmeg is a rela good idea. Ricotta gnocchi is so delicate a flavor, isnt it?

Cynthia said...

Such pillowy goodness!

Charli said...

I can't believe I forgot the upbeat Italian music and pretending I was in Tuscany part! It was a great challenge!

What's Cookin Chicago said...

Ricotta gnocchi is one of my faves because they are so light! This looks delicious and I'll have to try this recipe soon!

Núria said...

What is this Daring Cooks Challenge? It's the first time I hear about it... interesting, I'll go and check :D
Very daring indeed to make your own gnocchi! Good job Giz!!!

The omelet round up is on, want to see it?

Carolina deWitte said...

How do you finish them? All you said to do was put the butter and water in a pan, nothing beyond that. I assume you melt them together, then do you just pour it over the finished gnocchi? Or, do you finish them in the oven?

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