Gnocchi is one of my favorite pasta variations, although they are a bit temperamental to make from scratch. When done correctly, they are little pillows of joy. When done incorrectly, they are little gut-bombs. Fortunately, this recipe produced perfect gnocchi. I find that for the homemade version, I much prefer the ricotta gnocchi to the potato kind. It seems to me that the ricotta is easier to work with, and a little less labor-intensive. Paired with the browned butter sauce, this dish was absolutely phenomenal. I think it also helped that the husband and I fed the kiddos a separate dinner earlier in the evening then put them to bed, so we could relax and enjoy this meal without distraction.
Our dinnertime has become a little crazy since the twins have been born, so it is nice to take a "time out" now and then. Lately, I have been making an effort to have at least one meal a week where the husband and I can reconnect with dinner by ourselves. It's a trick I picked up from my friend, Claire. She and her husband call it "mini-date night"; and I think it is a good way to get some quality time with the spouse without the expense, fuss, and babysitting dilemma, of a real date night out. (Not that I would ever turn down a night out.) Anyway, this was a great recipe to serve for "mini-date night", and one that I will make again. A glass of white wine and a big green salad are just the right accompaniments to this yummy pasta meal.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Browned Butter and Sage Sauce
From: Cook's Illustrated Italian Favorites special issue, 2010
1 Container Whole-milk Ricotta Cheese (15 – 16 oz.) (**SEE NOTES**)
2 Large Slices White Bread, crusts removed and bread torn into quarters (**SEE NOTES**)
1 Large Egg
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Basil
2 Tablespoons Minced Fresh Parsley
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/2 Grated Parmesan Cheese
6 Tablespoons All-purpose Flour (**SEE NOTES**)
4 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter, cut into 4 pieces
2 Tablespoons Minced Shallot
2 Teaspoons Minced Fresh Sage
1 Teaspoon Fresh Lemon Juice
1/8 Teaspoon Table Salt
1. Line a fine-mesh strainer with 3 layers of paper towels and place over a bowl. Place the ricotta in the strainer and put it in the fridge for an hour to drain.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 F. Take bread pieces and place in a food processor and pulse for about 10 seconds. Spread the crumbs out on a half sheet pan and bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let them cool to room temperature.
3. Put the ricotta into the food processor and process for eight, 1-second pulses and then place into a large bowl. Add the egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper to the bowl. Add the flour, Parmesan, and bread crumbs. Stir until combined and then place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
4. If the dough it too sticky, add a little bit of flour. Dust a surface with flour and take a lemon-sized piece of dough and roll it into a 3/4 inch thick rope. Cut the rope into 3/4 inch pieces and transfer to a baking sheet line with parchment paper. Repeat until all the dough is converted to small dumpling shapes.
5. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and the reduce to a SIMMER and start the sauce (see step 6). (If the water is boiling too harshly, then it may break the gnocchi apart). Add half of the gnocchi and cook until the gnocchi floats to the top. Then SIMMER the gnocchi for 2 more minutes longer and then remove with a slotted spoon. Let the water drain and add the gnocchi directly to the sauce.
6. Melt the butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally. Simmer until browned about 1 1/2 minutes and it will release a nice nutty aroma (a burning smell or black specks in the butter is bad, wipe out the pan and start over). Add the sage and shallot off heat and let it cook for a minute. Toss with the cooked gnocchi and serve immediately. Garnish with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
**I took a few liberties with this recipe. First, I did not make my own breadcrumbs. I omitted steps (1.) and (2.) and eliminated the two slices of white bread from the ingredients list. Instead, I substituted a 1/2 cup of whole wheat Panko bread crumbs. It worked out great, and saved a lot of time.**
**Next, to make the dish a little more healthful, I used 3 tablespoons of AP flour and 3 tablespoons of whole wheat flour for the gnocchi dough. (However, I did use AP flour for dusting the work surface.) Also, I used part-skim ricotta instead of whole milk ricotta. Again, my changes worked out great and will be substitutions I use again.**
This made a lot of gnocchi, so I ended up freezing about half of them for another meal. I just took the parchment-lined sheet pan and stuck it in my freezer. This allowed the gnocchi to flash-freeze individually (not in a big lump). Then, once frozen (I left them overnight), I took the frozen gnocchi pieces and put them in a zip top bag to store in the freezer for another use.
This recipe was sinful! So freakin' delicious!!! I am just happy that I got a 4 mile run in before dinner, so I did not have to feel so guilty about basically eating cheese and butter for our evening meal. Yum!