I started watching cooking shows on television at a young age, before Food Network (and man that makes me feel old). One of my early favorites was Mario Batali’s Molto Mario. I can still hear the perky operatic music at the intro… can you? If you can, you just might be my soul mate. But I digress just a tad. That happens sometimes.
Now, you might know that Mario Batali is one of the hosts of The Chew, a daytime talk show dedicated to all things food. And when I watched Mario make potato gnocchi (pronounced NYOH-kee, if you’re unfamiliar) from start to finish, I looked at the t.v. and thought “I can do that!” I followed his recipe and it was divine. Thanks to Mario, I was hooked on homemade gnocchi. So hooked in fact that I began craving it weekly. It just might be my new favorite thing.
After I had a couple of rounds of potato gnocchi under my belt, I came across ricotta gnocchi, an easier version of the rustic dumpling. I was intrigued, but I had my doubts. Could they possibly be as good? I pondered.
Ah, I was mistaken. They’re incredible. Slightly different texture and flavor, but equally as good. Tender, delicate pillows of comforting, steaming Italian goodness just waiting for the perfect sauce and toppings. Bliss, I tell you. Bliss.
Caution: when making this life-altering dish, don’t get distracted… chiffonade the basil, not your thumb. You’ll thank me when your thumb doesn’t look like mine. Occupational hazard. <wink>
Gnocchi adapted from Italian Food Forever | Sauce adapted from Mario Batali via The Chew
For the Ricotta Gnocchi:
1lb ricotta (full fat)
1 egg, lightly beaten
pinch of salt
For the Sauce:
1T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 (15oz) can plain tomato sauce
1/2t red chile flakes
salt to taste (my tomato sauce already includes a fair amount of salt, so I didn't need much, maybe 1/4t; some tomato sauces have less so you may need to add more)
4-6oz fresh mozzarella, cubed
2T (or more) fresh basil, chiffonade
For the Gnocchi:
In a mixing bowl, add egg to ricotta and stir to combine. To that, add 1c of flour and pinch of salt. Fold flour in gently until a soft dough forms. If dough is sticky, add more of the reserved flour by the tablespoon until it is no longer sticky. Do not knead or over mix the dough (this will result in chewy gnocchi).
Turn dough out onto a floured surface and pinch off baseball-sized portions of dough. Using both hands in a back-and-forth motion, roll dough into a long snake, about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. (the size of the dumplings doesn't matter as much as that they are uniform with one another so they cook evenly)
Take a sharp knife and cut the snake into 1-inch pieces. Repeat rolling and cutting steps with the rest of the dough.
Place a large pot of water on the stove over high heat. Salt generously and bring to a boil.
At this point, you can press your gnocchi down the tines of a fork or on a wood gnocchi board to achieve the groove marks. Or you can skip this step (some say the grooves help hold the sauce).
When water is boiling steadily, carefully drop gnocchi in. Grab a large slotted spoon and don't walk away. As soon as the gnocchi float to the top, they are done (if you overcook them, they will turn into mush. Remove them promptly). As they float to the top, you can easily remove them with a slotted spoon, shaking off excess water, and put them straight into the pan of sauce.
For the sauce:
In a large frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and pepper flakes, stirring, one minute, or until fragrant but without browning the garlic. Add tomato sauce to the pan, followed by sugar and salt. Turn heat to medium-low and allow to simmer while the gnocchi are cooking.
Add cooked gnocchi directly to sauce, stirring to coat, and remove from heat. Toss in fresh mozzarella and basil. Stir gently to combine (the mozzarella will begin to melt, so don't stir much). Serve immediately.
Made this about a week ago, the pasta was deliciously plump and soft, nothing like god-awful store-bought gnocchi. Sauce was a great compliment. I don't believe I will ever be able to go back to cupboard pasta again.