Ricotta gnocchi is less labor intensive than traditional potato gnocchi, which makes it a great option for gnocchi novices and busy families. But don’t feel like you’d be getting a lesser product. The ricotta yields a rich, tender dumpling and adds a fair amount more protein to your pasta than any potato would. I like to keep the sauce extremely simple with olive oil, garlic, and a fair amount of red-pepper flakes, which highlights the pure flavors of the fresh mozzarella and the delicate gnocchi. A generous handful of fresh basil is the perfect finishing touch.
- Yield: 4 Servings
- 1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional as needed
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
- 1 can (15 ounces) plain tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-size cubes
- ¼ cup fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade
To Make the Ricotta Gnocchi
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the ricotta and egg until smooth. Add the flour and salt, folding gently into the ricotta to combine. If the dough is sticky, add more flour by the tablespoon until the dough is workable and no longer sticky, but still quite soft. Do not knead or over mix the dough, as this will result in dense, chewy gnocchi.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pinch off baseball-size portions of dough. Using both hands in a back-and-forth motion, roll each ball of dough into a long snake, about ½" to ¾" thick. (The size of the dumplings doesn’t matter as much as that they are uniform with one another so they cook evenly.) Using a bench cutter or knife, cut the snake into 1" pieces. Press each gnocchi down a wooden gnocchi board or the tines of a fork to make groove marks. The grooves help hold the sauce.
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. Salt generously and bring to a boil. To Make the Spicy Tomato Sauce
- While the water comes to a boil, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Cook the garlic and red-pepper flakes, stirring, for 1 minute, or until fragrant but without browning the garlic. Add the tomato sauce to the pan, followed by the sugar. Stir to combine. Season with salt to taste. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer while the gnocchi are cooking.
- When the water is boiling steadily, carefully drop the gnocchi in. Grab a large slotted spoon. As soon as the gnocchi float to the top, they are done. If you overcook them, they will turn into mush, so remove them promptly. As you gradually remove the gnocchi, shake off the excess water and put them into the pan of sauce, stirring to coat. When all of the gnocchi have been transferred to the sauce, remove the pan from the heat. Toss in the mozzarella and basil. Fold gently to combine. The mozzarella will begin to melt, so don’t stir much. Serve immediately.