Ricotta Gnocchi with Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce

It's no secret that I love all foods coming out of Italy. I frequently cook Italian foods including gnocchi for a simple reason. I'm allergic to pine nuts so eating in Italian restaurants can be a challenge. I love pesto and basil though so making them at home allows me to control their pine-nut-free-ness.

Gnocchi is a magical food, when made from ricotta. I've made potato gnocchi before and can tell you I will never go back. The texture and ease of the ricotta and quick timeline to make it easily place it as my favorite.

And my 17 month old? She demolished more than any of the adults did. Gnocchi is one of those super filling foods and I'm not sure where she fit all of it in her tiny tummy. 

My father in law is up visiting from Florida which means three things. I cook some good meals and don't have to watch the toddler while I do so, he takes us out to eat, and we all gain 5 pounds. He brought up some really great looking tomatoes which prompted me to make this meal. Let's just say that the tomatoes available in Vermont grocery stores in February aren't usually inspirational. 

Ricotta Gnocchi
(serves 4-6)

12 oz ricotta cheese (use the whole milk variety- the end taste is way better) 
2.5 oz of grated parmigiano cheese
2 eggs & 1 additional yolk
1 1/4 cups flour (make sure you have at least 1 more cup on hand for the rolling and dusting parts)
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 TBS olive oil & 2 TBS butter for the last step

Tomato Basil Sauce

3 large tomatoes
2 TBS of chopped fresh basil (I have frozen cubes left over from our CSA last summer so that's what you'll see in my pictures) - feel free to use more, you can never have too much basil
1/2 cup of white wine
2 TBS oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Making the gnocchi:

Measure out 12 oz of ricotta on a food scale. Try to avoid any liquid pooled in the container. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, parmesan, salt, thyme & pepper. Whisk together until well mixed. 

Add in 1 1/4 cups flour and blend just until it forms a dough. I switched to a spatula so that I could use a folding motion right after taking the picture below.

Once a dough is formed plop it onto a prepared flour surface on your counter. Don't worry if you don't have tons of counter space. I worked on a clear area a little over a foot wide and all was well. I did however, realize part of the way thru that I needed a photography assistant so that my camera didn't end up covered in flour.

Shape the dough into a log. Cut into several smaller pieces so that they will be manageable. One by one you will roll out the pieces until they are roughly the diameter of a carrot. If the part you are rolling out gets too long just cut it in half and work one section at a time. 

Once you have rolled out the logs thinly you want to cut them into bite-size pieces. Keep in mind that when you cook them they puff a little so lean towards smaller bite-size pieces. Put the cut pieces onto a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper or wax paper and flour. 

Once you've cut all the gnocchi up we will pause our gnocchi creation process. Put the cookie sheet in the fridge and we'll start the sauce. The ricotta gnocchi will cook better if they have the chance to chill for about 15 minutes. You could also freeze the gnocchi if you wanted to. In order to freeze spread the gnocchi in a single layer on the cookie sheet and once frozen put them into a ziploc bag. 

Start a large stockpot of salted water on the stove so that it will be boiling by the time you're done with the sauce. 

To Make the Sauce:

Dice all of the tomatoes. I despise tomato guts so I removed them all. 

Now that the tomatoes are diced put your basil, oil, and wine into a saucepan over medium.

Add the diced tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Cook down the tomato sauce for a few minutes.

At this point in time I put the sauce into a bowl and cover it with a plate. This is so I can rinse and use the pan for the gnocchi because I don't want to use a third pan.

Cooking the gnocchi:

Your pot of salted water should be boiling by now. Drop in the gnocchi quickly. They will cook in about 2-3 minutes so you do not want to take your sweet time putting them in one by one! Discard the parchment paper and put down a double layer of paper towels on the cookie sheet. When the gnocchi float to the surface take them out with a slotted spoon shaking off as much water as possible and lay them on the paper towel covered cookie sheet.

In a saucepan, melt 2 TBS butter & 2 TBS olive oil and dump in the drained gnocchi. Gently move them around with a spatula so that each piece is coated. Serve immediately topped with the tomato sauce. Enjoy!

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