Add potato, the experts insist; it must be baked not boiled, skinned not peeled, waxy yellow not white, riced with a ricer not mashed and no doubt is only perfect when baked, dancing naked around the kitchen, under a full moon. Like all nonsensical professional vanity, it’s just not a very good idea,  dancing naked in a hot kitchen or adding potato to gnocchi. These same experts tell us to add squash, sweet potato, chopped bread, béchamel sauce, choux pastry, milk, spices, spinach, semolina and even truffles.  They forget that adding potato and all this other stuff to gnocchi is a new innovation and not a very good one, because in our opinion, some recipes are best left alone.   The Ancient Romans had the idea first. Weary soldiers, at the end of a long, cold, hard, day tromping about Europe and Asia, wanted something hot for dinner, something that would fill them up and stick to their ribs and they wanted it now. The legions cook, low on supplies and even lower on ideas, must have put a big pot of water on to boil, thrown in a handful of salt and wracked his brains. He had no meat, no vegetables, scant flour, certainly not enough for bread or pasta, a few scavenged eggs and some sour fermenting milk in goat skins that had churned itself to soft cheese during the days march. In his desperation he threw his three last ingredients together, dropped knobs of the resulting soft dough into his pot of water and presto, invented not pasta, not bread, not noodles, but the soft-hearted plump little darling dumplings we call gnocchi. This original gnocchi was made right up ’til the 1300’s before chef’s got hold of it. In a last gasp of common sense a Tuscan dialect cook urged us to “take some cheese and mash it, then take some flour … mix it with egg … place a pot of water over a fire …when it starts boiling … slide it in the pot with a spoon… when cooked …top them with a lot of grated cheese.”  We think the Ancient Romans and Tuscans had the right idea of keeping their flavourings for the sauce, so our recipe, like their original one is still the softest, cheapest, easiest and the best.

Ricotta Gnocchi

For the gnocchi:
100 grams plain flour
500 grams of ricotta cheese*, drained
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 large egg
pinch of salt

To make the gnocchi:
Mix all together in a bowl with a wooden spoon and your hands. Be careful not to overmix. If your mixture is too wet and won’t come together, add a little more flour but only do this if absolutely necessary (the secret to light fluffy pillows, is not too much flour).  I like to test the dough at this point by cooking a pinched off amount in a little boiling water. If it falls apart, add a bit more flour to your dough. Once you have reached the right consistency, tip the dough onto a floured board and divide into three. Roll or press each into a long sausage about ¾ inch thick. Cut into 1” pillows. We use a hard plastic spatula or bowl scraper and just chop down and then slide each sideways. Place gnocchi on a floured surface and set aside while you make the sauce (see below for sauce recipes).

Cooking Gnocchi:
Drop gently in a saucepan of water brought to a slow gentle boil. Stir only once, let them rise to the surface, simmer 2 more minutes, turn off heat and allow to sit in water for a few minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Spoon the hot gnocchi straight into the sauce and serve. Garnish with anything you like or try chopped fresh herbs like chives, chervil, tarragon or parsley, shards of crisp-fried sage.

Serves 6.

*Feta cheese can also be used instead of ricotta. This gnocchi is best made and used immediately or you can freeze the uncooked gnocchi and then cook from frozen.

To make Baked Gnocchi: Spoon cooked gnocchi into a greased ovenproof dish and spoon over sauce. Sprinkle with bread crumbs, herbs and Parmesan and bake for 20minutes at 180 degrees to reheat and crispy up the top.

Saffron Cream Sauce
1 onion, finely chopped
½ cup dry white wine
1 pinch saffron, soaked in a little hot water
2 cups cream
a small pinch of sweet paprika or very light sprinkle of cayenne
salt flakes and pepper

Sauté the onion in ½ butter, ½ oil until soft. Then add the saffron and its infusing water and the spice, stir together then add the wine and simmer down a couple of minutes before adding the cream. Stir and simmer until it just begins to thicken. Check seasoning. Stir gnocchi through sauce.

Mushroom Cream Sauce:
2 cups cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 cups sliced swiss brown mushrooms
handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Saute mushrooms in a little oil and butter until browned and cooked through. Add cream, parmesan and parsley and stir through gnocchi.

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Have you tried this recipe? We would love to hear your comments below…



2 Responses to Ricotta Gnocchi with two sauces

  1. Sally Parnis says:

    Yum! Thanks Prue!

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