Pillow talk

Mastering ricotta gnocchi has been a bit of an ongoing project for me. I love the idea of having a lighter version than the classic potato gnocchi in my arsenal, and we get such delicious fresh ricotta from Louella that I want to use it whenever possible. So I’m sad to report that this latest attempt, while not the epic FAIL of my last try, still missed the mark.

This was another situation, I think, where following a recipe doesn’t always produce perfect results. The source is one I trust: my beloved Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I used the proportions indicated (2 cups of AP flour, 2 beaten eggs, 1 lb. of ricotta, drained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, salt, pepper), and the mixture was so wet that it was unworkable. I had to add at least another cup of flour to the mix just to get it to a point where it didn’t adhere in gobs to my fingers and any surface it touched, which left me with a much denser dough than I presume the recipe intended.

Dinner:  February 2, 2009

I pressed forward and blanched the little dumplings in batches, tossing them with a slick of olive oil after fishing them from the boiling water, and I served them with a light and slightly spicy tomato-butter sauce. They were tasty for sure, and not leaden, starchy blobs like the last batch I made, but they had a bit more chew than I would have liked. Still, I’m not going to give up on my mission – I have every intention of trying again, and if you have any favorite tips, tricks or go-to recipes for making ricotta gnocchi to suggest, I’d love to hear them.

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15 thoughts on “Pillow talk

  1. I’m obsessed with learning how to do these, too. Let us know when you find a winning recipe! I guess part of the problem is varying types if ricotta.

  2. laura grace says:

    I have nothing to add in the way of advice, but I did something very nearly like that tomato-butter sauce with my last batch of potato gnocchi… chopped tomatoes, lashings of butter, the merest suggestion of garlic, a smidge of nutmeg (perfect with the delicate lightness of the gnocchi), and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

    And now I know what I’m having for dinner.

  3. Jennifer-

    I too have been on a quest to perfect this elusive, yet daringly-simple Italian staple (plain, no ricotta yet). I’ve made it 5 or 6 times with varying success, my persistent problem comes when rolling the dough into ropes. Often the rope splits lengthwise and just won’t stick together despite my fervent pleading and kneading.

    I must admit though, I’ve forgone the egg out of respect for the origins but I may just go the easy route my next attempt…

  4. My guess would be the type of ricotta you’re using. As it’s fresh, it’s bound to have different properties than store bought, and the recipe is probably standardized to store bought ricotta.

  5. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone! (And claudia, I’m *still* giggling about yesterday’s – hee)

    To claudia and Ashley, I think you’re right that the issue is with the ricotta I’m using. It’s incredibly fresh (which is why I love it so much), but it is very wet. I actually thought the texture was better before I added the beaten egg, so maybe I’ll dial back there first. And I’d love to try this with sheep’s milk ricotta, but that’s proving difficult to find around here. We used to buy from Karen at 3-Corner Field all the time when we lived in NYC, so a couple of months back we asked the guys at Farmstead (who carry some of her other sheep milk cheeses) if they could order some for us. At the time there was none available, but this might merit a repeat inquiry. 🙂

  6. sarah says:

    This is a very random guess, but maybe keep the wet dough as is, and flour your hands and then the little balls — much like when you flour your hands and the outside of a wet pie dough when rolling out a pie?

  7. I’ve been meaning to do these for ages. As for consistency I often have the problem with gnocchi that the dough is very wet and difficult to shape. For ages I went down the ‘just add more flour until its workable’ route, and this sort of worked, but as you say, ends up a little heavy. So recently I followed the recipe to the letter, and instead of freaking out when the gnocchi were near impossible to shape, I effectively did it by putting a very thick drift of semolina flour on my worktop, flouring my hands very thoroughly, and gently coaxing, pushing them into shape before cutting them with a very sharp knife. The upshot was pillow soft (but very unphotogenic) gnocchi. The flour essentially forms a coat around the very delicate dough, allowing it to hold its shape just enough for you to pop it in boiling water. I imagine the same is true with the ricotta – the semolina works better for rolling for normal flour I think as its a little coarser.

    Also, I wouldn’t omit the egg – I imagine it helps hold them together when they’re cooking!

  8. Jennifer Hess says:

    Thanks again for your comments and suggestions! We’re planning a trip to Federal Hill this weekend, so I’ll definitely pick up some semolina flour. I’m hesitant to omit the egg entirely, but I will probably try to scale down the amount and see how that works. 🙂

  9. Rezpeni says:

    Ommit the egg! It is just more moisture to which you will need to add more flour diluting your potato flavor, or ricotta in this case. In Essentials by Marcella Hazan she advocates this. Also you should make your own Ricotta it is so easy and makes a huge difference check out the article in the NY Times, I am never buying ricotta again. And one more thing, have you tried Gnudi? My fav ver is definetely The Spotted Pigs but I found a recipe in a River Cafe coookbook which basically calls for seasoning the ricotta with a little parmasean and nutmeg, forming it into balls, then rolling them in semolina and allowing them to dry in the fridge for 24 hours slightly submerged in Semolina. When they are cooked you can imagine what happens, pasta like outside and soft pillowy ricotta inside.

  10. Asher says:

    You should try the recipe from Zuni Cafe Cookbook. I’ve found it to be light, airy, incredibly flavorful, and, for gnocchi, remarkably easy. But, like you said above, it’s really important to wick away as much moisture as possible. This recipe only uses flour for forming the gnocchi, not as an ingredient in it, which might help on the chewiness. Good luck.

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