Ricotta Gnocchi

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UPDATE NOTE My friend Jen, another Nourishing Traditions, homeschooling mom, just let me know she’s making this gnocchi recipe using Quark/Quarg made from my recipe located here, substituting an equal amount of well-drained Quark cheese in place of the ricotta called for in the recipe.

I’m happily stuck in a ricotta gnocchi rut, only occasionally contemplating making traditional potato gnocchi. I love potato gnocchi, having enjoyed it at many restaurants, our favorite at a tucked-away, family restaurant in Provo, Utah, its Naples-born patriarch recreating his Naples-grandmother’s creation, every Thursday night.

But when it comes to putting the peeler to the potato, I picture my family sitting around the dinner table – scrunched up noses and narrowed eyes, asking, “Are these YOUR gnocchi?” Traditions come in many forms, shapes and sizes, and without a doubt, ours is gnocchi made from ricotta cheese.

Up until the last couple of years, I’d used store-bought ricotta to make my gnocchi – the more expensive “good stuff” made of whole-milk and as few additives as possible, such as natural-doesn’t-mean-healthy carageenan or guar gum – as thickening agents.

None of the additive-free grocery-store ricottas contains super healthy grass-fed milk, or claims to be free of recombinant bovine growth hormone

My solution has been to make my own ricotta, a joyfully simple process, requiring nothing more than using grass-fed organic milk, cheese salt and citric acid, slowly bringing the temperature to 195f, turning off the heat, allowing the mixture to rest for 10-minutes and then draining the ricotta for a few hours, suspended in buttercloth over a bowl.

A good kit, that contains all the ingredients (except for the milk) is “Rickie’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit.

While my home-made ricotta, as well as Rickie’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit is on the dry-side for making gnocchi, stirring in a few tablespoons of the drained whey makes the texture more like cream cheese, a desirable texture for making these ricotta.

Another benefit of adding whey, is that the mixture needs to “ferment” or age for at least 12 hours before the gnocchi are rolled and cut. Fermenting dough in this fashion, makes it more easily digestible, especially if using freshly ground, sifted white winter wheat.

For more about making fermented noodles, see this article which discusses Russian Pel’meni Dough

After the gnocchi have been formed and cut into small dumplings, some traditionalists insist ridges must be pressed into the gnocchi by fork tines or rolling against the concave side of a spoon. The purpose of either technique is to give the sauce a texture to “grip”. Sometimes I make ridges, and other times, I don’t, placing the freshly cut ricotta dumplings directly into the simmering, salt water. There is no “right” or “wrong”.

These ricotta gnocchi melt-in-the-mouth, and that’s, ultimately, the most important thing.

Ricotta Gnocchi

  • 2 lbs fresh ricotta or well-drained Quark/Quarg cheese (drained using buttercloth or cheesecloth for several hours, if home-made)
  • 1 cup parmigiano-regiano freshly-grated cheese
  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour (whole-wheat pastry, spelt, kamut, triticale – any will work including freshly-ground and sifted)
  • 3 T whey (use the whey separated during cheesemaking OR if using store-bought ricotta, use yogurt or kefir)
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Dough should be slightly sticky (add a small amount of flour if dough sticks to hands).
  2. Allow to sit at room temperature, in a covered bowl, for at least 12 hours
  3. When ready to make gnocchi, begin by heating large pan of salted water – a vessel typically used for cooking pasta, allowing for sufficient water, would be best
  4. Form a ball and cut into small sections with a pastry dough scraper.
  5. Roll each ball into long, tubular shape, 1-inch diameter; if dough sticks, use a small amount of flour
  6. Make diagonal cuts approximately 1/2-inch wide; at this point, ridges may be contoured into the gnocchi, with fork tines or a spoon.
  7. Place cut gnocchi on a lightly floured cotton towel and refrigerate until ready to cook
  8. Carefully place gnocchi in boiling water
  9. Cooking time – approximately 15-second OR when gnocchi rise to the top.
  10. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl, gently tossing in marinara.