Like many of you, I’m sure, I have a couple of 3-ring binders full of old recipes: magazine clippings, handwritten index cards, recipes copied from long-discarded sources that I retyped on colored paper. Many of these old recipes of indeterminate origins have my scribbled notes:
light & delicious 1/01
oh God! oh God!
As I’m planning dinners for the week (and, with Rob’s input), I’ll scan a bunch of sources for inspiration: the latest cooking magazines, my tried-and-true everyday cookbooks, the 10-year stash of old Bon Appetit magazines on the basement bookshelves … and my trusty binder. Recently, I spotted an old recipe for ricotta gnocchi that I hadn’t made in forever. I’d drawn four stars on the clipping.
Provided you use a very light hand with the dough, ricotta gnocchi are ridiculously easy (and not at all time-consuming) to make at home. They want only the simplest sauce for serving. I like to toast some chopped walnuts in a dry skillet, then use the same pan to wilt some chopped baby spinach and, finally, to brown 3 or 4 tablespoons of sweet butter — I’ll toss the cooked ricotta gnocchi with this simple sauce and finish the dish with a giant handful of freshly grated Parmesan.
You could skip the spinach and walnuts, and simply add whole sage leaves to the butter as it’s browning. (Oh, and the generous handful of Parm.)
Or, you could gently toss the cooked ricotta gnocchi with this flavorful sauce of warm spices and yellow cherry tomatoes.
homemade ricotta gnocchi recipe
16 ounces whole-milk ricotta (see Note)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups freshly grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
(Note: the container of ricotta that I purchased at the grocery contained 15 ounces; I reduced the amount of flour by 1 Tbsp.)
In a large bowl, gently stir together the ricotta and egg; sprinkle the flour, Parmesan, nutmeg and salt over the mixture and use a rubber spatula to fold the ingredients carefully together until they're thoroughly combined (don't overwork the dough). You can make the dough up to 1 day ahead of time to this point and refrigerate it, wrapped in plastic. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle it lightly with flour. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and divide it into quarters. Use your hands to gently form one quarter of the dough into a ball, then roll it into a long rope, about 1/2 inch in diameter. Use a small paring knife to cut the rope into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece along the tines of a dinner fork to make the customary ridged shape. Place the gnocchi on the baking sheet as you work. Continue until you've used all the dough. (At this point, you can freeze the gnocchi on the baking sheet, covered with plastic wrap, and then transfer them to a zip-top plastic bag and freeze for up to 3 months.)
To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil; reduce heat to a strong simmer. Cook the gnocchi in 2 batches (so they aren't crowded) until they all float to the surface, about 3–4 minutes. Scoop one little dumpling out and cut it in half to be sure it's cooked through. Remove and drain.
Edit: A friend told me that she had trouble with this recipe and needed to keep adding flour to make the dough come together. The old recipe I referenced includes a footnote that if you’re using fresh ricotta that contains “excessive liquid,” it should be drained in a cheesecloth-lined colander before using. I didn’t run into that problem, so I omitted the note. If your container of ricotta seems a little soupy, go ahead and drain it for a couple of hours in the fridge before making the gnocchi.