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Grandma DiLaura's Italian Ricotta Gnocchi

by:
February  9, 2011
15 Ratings
Photo by Ty Mecham
Author Notes

I grew up going to my Italian grandmother's every Sunday for dinner. I have fond memories of handmade pasta drying on a rack, big pots of sauce simmering away on the stove and stinky hard Italian cheeses that I loved to snack on, even as a child. But my most favorite Sundays at Grandma's were the Sundays when she made her gnocchi.

For many years she used potato, but then wised up to the ease and lightness of using ricotta instead. It took about 20 years before I finally pinned her down and made her write the recipe that had always been made by memory and feel. Isn't that how all Italian grandmother's cook?

It’s a fairly easy process. First, mix egg, ricotta cheese, and oil together, then add the grated parmesan cheese and sprinkle with nutmeg to taste. Once you sift and mix the flour in, form a ball and cut off slices of dough like cutting a loaf of bread. Roll into thumb-sized-thick ropes by spreading out your hands and fingers and rolling from center out to each edge of the rope.

To cut the gnocchi, line your ropes parallel to one another and cut two at a time into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece off the back of a fork to make imprints that will help hold the sauce.

Freezing is not necessary if you are cooking right away, but it does help prevent them from sticking together when you add to the water. All you really need is about 10-15 minutes to give them a chance to firm up on the outside before dropping in the pot. If you aren't going to make them right away, it's important to let them freeze on the tray first so that they don't stick together when you store in a bag or container for future use, since they are so soft and delicate.

As soon as you're ready to cook, they should go straight from the freezer to the boiling pot (no defrosting) and will cook in essentially the same amount of time. Nice thing to have on hand for a midweek meal!

Since the best meals are the ones that are shared, I want to take it out of the old family box and contribute it to the Food52 community. Buon Appetito! —cdilaura

Test Kitchen Notes

We're newly convinced, thanks to this recipe, that homemade gnocchi can be a weeknight dinner. And ricotta gnocchi like cdilaura's (a.k.a. our friend Christina) are especially easy to pull together, and won't weigh you down like their potato-based counterparts. We loved these nearly bare–just sauteed in some brown butter–so we could really taste the ricotta and speckles of nutmeg, but Christina's Grandma DiLaura's Tomato and Meat Sauce recipe (also on the site) is delicious too. –A&M

—The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Grandma DiLaura's Italian Ricotta Gnocchi
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg to taste
  • 2 cups flour, sifted, plus extra for rolling dough
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Add egg to ricotta cheese and oil and mix thoroughly.
  2. Add grated parmesan cheese to mixture and sprinkle with nutmeg to taste.
  3. Add sifted flour a little at a time and continue to mix thoroughly until dough comes together.
  4. Dump onto generously floured surface and work with hands to bring together into a smooth ball. Add more flour as necessary until dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands.
  5. Cut off slices of dough like cutting a loaf of bread and roll into ropes thumb size thick by spreading hands and fingers and rolling from center out to each edge of the rope.
  6. Line one rope parallel to another and cut 2 at a time into 1-inch pieces. Roll each piece off the back of a fork to make imprints that will help hold the sauce.
  7. Transfer gnocchi pieces to a lightly floured or non-stick baking sheet so they don’t stick together and put in the freezer while making the rest of batch. If you plan to save any gnocchi for future use, allow them to freeze entirely on the baking sheet before storing in a ziplock bag to prevent sticking together.
  8. When ready to prepare, bring a large stockpot of generously salted water to a boil.
  9. Add gnocchi to boiling water and gently stir once with a wooden spoon to create movement and prevent gnocchi from sticking to the bottom. As gnocchi rise to the top {a sign they are done cooking} scoop them out with a mesh strainer or a bamboo wire skimmer and immediately place in serving bowl shaking off excess water.
  10. Scoop some sauce on top of each layer of gnocchi as they are placed in the bowl to eliminate the need to stir them with sauce in the end and risk damaging or smashing the pasta. Generously grate parmesan over the top and serve.

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Some people were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, mine was wooden. With an Italian heritage on one side and a Lebanese heritage on the other, good food was never hard to find. I grew up with Sunday dinners at Grandma’s, big pots of sauce simmering away on the stove all day and hand cut pasta drying on the rack in the basement. The perfume of lemon, garlic, garden grown herbs and other fresh ingredients always scented our family kitchens. So it is no surprise that my love for fresh, hand-prepared food is something I now love to share with new and old friends. Because of that, I put on my apron, sharpened my knives and started a blog and NYC supper club called [email protected] to continue spreading the good food love.