So here it is, the first Daring Cooks challenge. I will without a doubt make this again, it was phenomenal, as many others said, little pillows of deliciousness. Because I'm not an actual daring cook, I have the advantage of reading the posts of everyone else, to learn from their mistakes (and have inspiration from their sauces). I added a pinch of lemon zest and some nutmeg, but unfortunately, the pinch of lemon zest was not small enough, as they tasted a little bit too lemon-y. But they really were wonderful, super light and fluffy and cheesy with a lemon flavor. So tasty. Because of the extra lemony-ness, my first version was an attempt at a lemon basil sauce with veggies, but I didn't want to make a cream sauce since the gnocchi were themselves a little creamy. I really don't like zucchini or squash, but I've had a similar dish (potato gnocchi with summer veggies and lemon basil sauce) at Maggianos where I could tolerate them and they were on sale and I need to eat more veggies, so I threw them in it and tried to eat them that way. And it worked! I cooked them up with a little extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice (the other half of the lemon after I made ricotta) two cloves of pressed garlic and a basil cube and sauted them until they were kind of brown and translucent. I heated up a similar sauce and poured it over the top, but it was a little too acidic. It actually would have been really good without the additional sauce (not that it was bad with the additional sauce, just a little acidic, especially on the veggies, it was good on the gnocchi). And I have extra veggies, so... Actually in a few days I'll try making a roasted red pepper cream sauce with spinach and asparagus (which I also do not like but want to be able to eat) with some of the leftover gnocchi. Yum. I might actually be able to eat the leftover veggies because they are in such a tasty sauce.
A few other notes. The instructions say to make sure the ricotta is dry. I had no problem with this because I made it myself, so I really would encourage that. It's super easy and pretty cheap (and milk is even cheaper this week at $2 a gallon). Also, in step 2 it says to mash up the cheese and if you see any curds to push it through a strainer. I didn't think there were any lumps... until I had added the eggs and the cheese. So I would recommend pushing it through a strainer even if you don't think you need to. It didn't ruin them, but I did find a lump in a piece of gnocchi, not really a big deal, but, well it was there. So here's the recipe:
The inaugural May 2009 Daring Cooks' Challenge was brought to us by Ivonne of Creampuffs in Venice and Lis of La Mia Cucina
We have chosen a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.
On the surface, this is a very straightforward recipe. The challenge is in the forming and handling of the gnocchi. What you do with the recipe, in terms of variations, is up to you.
Zuni Ricotta GnocchiSource: From The Zuni Café Cookbook
Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)
Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take 1 hour.
- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.
• Cheesecloth or paper towels
• Large mixing bowl
• Rubber spatula
• Baking dish or baking sheet
• Wax or parchment paper
• Small pot
• Large skillet
• Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)
Videos that might help:
- Judy Rodgers' Gnocchi Demo
- Making Fresh Ricotta Demo
- Making Ricotta Gnocchi
For the gnocchi:
1 pound fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi
For the gnocchi sauce:
8 tablespoons butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water
Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.
If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneat to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.
Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.
If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.
Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.
To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.
Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.
Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.
Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.
Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.
Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).
Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.
Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.
In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.
With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.
Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.
At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.
Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.
If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.
Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.
Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.
You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.
Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.
Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.
In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.
Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.
Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).
When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.
Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now.
With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.
Note: they say you can experiment with adding things like onions or sundried tomato to the gnocchi, but this gnocchi is pretty delicate, so they might break apart when cooking. So be careful!