Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi

Allison at A Tasteful Garden recently posted a recipe for Gnocchi which brought back memories of childhood and Sunday dinners with my family.

I was fortunate to have lots of family surrounding me as I was growing up. The home we lived in was fashioned into several apartments and my grandparents and great aunt lived above us.

My grandmother and her sister came to the United States from Italy when they were children. They and their mother joined their father who had come here previously and became established before sending for his family.

Not surprisingly, Italian meals with various homemade pastas and tomato sauce made from ingredients from our gardens were often served at our large Sunday dinners. Gnocchi was among my favorites.

The most common way to make gnocchi seems to be with potatoes. From the stories I heard, my grandmother and great aunt used to make their Gnocchi with potatoes, but boiling potatoes seemed to take up precious stovetop space when preparing large meals, so they began making Gnocchi with ricotta cheese instead.

I remember the first time my Aunt Mary attempted to show my father and I how to make Gnocchi. She used a large cutting board and her hands to mix the ingredients explaining to us that you had to go by the way the dough felt.

First she placed a few scoopfuls of flower on the board, then made a well in the center where she added eggs, ricotta cheese, and salt. Using her fingers, she gently mixed the dough together until combined. Then continued kneading the dough until it formed a ball, adding a sprinkling of flower every now and then until it “felt” right.

Then she would take sections of the dough and roll out into a long rope shape. Using a sharp knife, she would expertly cut the dough at an angle into uniform dumpling shapes, then flick them down the tines of a fork giving them a scoop like indention on one side grooves on the other.

She would sprinkle with flour and let the Gnocchi set for a bit before placing them into boiling water. Once they floated, they were done.

She made it look so easy.

Over time with lots of practice and careful observation, my parents and I eventually got the hang of it and were able to nail down a basic recipe. Although my Gnocchi will never taste the same as my Aunt Mary’s, and I was never able to mix the ingredients on a board without making a huge mess, it is an acceptable recipe for a comfort food that brings me warm memories.

Ricotta Gnocchi

16 oz. container ricotta cheese (pour off excess liquid)
2 eggs
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour, or as needed
Sauce of your choice

In a large bowl, add 1.5 cups of flour. Make a well in the center and add ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan, and salt. Mix until combined.

Turn mixture to a well flowered board and begin gently kneading. Add more flour as necessary until dough stops sticking to your fingers. Form into a large ball.

Divide the dough into four sections, and roll each section into 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope in 1-inch pieces.

To make the ridges, roll each piece down the tines of a fork or gnocchi board. It’s ok if they look a little funny, it will take some practice to get the pressure correct.

Sprinkle gnocchi with a little flower, spread them out, and allow them to rest a bit while you heat the sauce and bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.

Gently add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface. This only takes a few minutes.

Drain and place into a serving bowl. Spoon sauce over gnocchi and stir lightly with a wooden spoon until mixed.


  1. Well, my Grandfather came from Italy, but I missed out on all this wonderful stuff since he didn't do the cooking in the household, my Grandmother did... and she was Irish ! (The woman baked a mean potato though !)

    Your gnocchis looks absolutely delicious, GM ! Lovely photos and delightful story !

  2. I will have to try this recipe! I bought a gnocchi board a while back but haven't had a chance to try it out yet. These look great!

  3. Yum! It's amazing how good food can be - made from relatively few and simple ingredients.

    What a great memories your family gave you. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  4. I may have to try that -- and a gnocchi board! What brilliance. My potato gnocchi on forks are pretty inedible.
    And lucky you, my dad is the son of immigrants but we had almost lost all "authentic" contact with the (admittedly crazy and unpleasant) Sicilian side by the time I was a big girl. No one to teach me to cook.

  5. I will show this to my wife, she is second generation Italian. Her mother never measured anything and the recipe for gnocchi died with her. John

  6. yea, your recipe! i just had some of my gnocchi for dinner tonight but i can't wait to try it with ricotta. there is something about cooking the recipes of your family that makes a meal that much more heart-warming. btw, i'm completely coveting your gnocchi board! — Allison

  7. Miss M: Nope the men in our family didn’t do the cooking. They were pretty much waited on by my great aunt and grandmother. I still remember as a child when my aunt would bring down a freshly made apple pie. She would say that she made it for my younger brother.

    Thomas: This recipe is really easy and should take less than 30-minutes to prepare and serve. I need to thank you again because before I read it on your blog, I didn’t know that there was such a thing as a “gnocchi board.” I purchased one for my parents and myself and found that it is much easier to make the ridges than a fork.

    KitsapFG: I had gnocchi leftovers for lunch today. They are even better the second time around because the sauce has had time to soak in a little.

    I know now that I was lucky to have my family closely surrounding me as a child. They spoiled me rotten. Unfortunately, I took a lot for granted at the time, I guess we all do until we get older and learn to appreciate things more.

    Stefaneener: I have never tried potato gnocchi. I really should someday…maybe from my own grown potatoes next summer? I just learned about the gnocchi board via one of Thomas’ postings at “A Growing Tradition”. He mentioned picking one up last fall in one of his blog postings. Until then, I never knew they existed…I have always used the “fork method” but the board makes it much easier.

    John: My father was afraid that the recipe would die with my great aunt’s passing too. That is why he encouraged her to show both of us how to make her gnocchi. Trust me, we had to watch her again and again until we could figure out a recipe. If your wife is used to potato gnocchi, be sure to show her Alison’s recipe at “A Tasteful Garden”.

  8. Allison: Thank you for inspiring me to divulge into my childhood memories of gnocchi! I have only had ricotta gnocchi, so I don’t’ know how it would compare if you are used to potato gnocchi. I hope you enjoy it.

  9. That looks amazing...thanks for the recipe... I enjoy reading about family recipes and traditions that are carried on through the generations.

  10. They look heavenly! I have always want to try gnocchi, both making and eating. I have to save this post. Nice photos.

  11. Sunny: You are welcome. I hope you enjoy.

    Dan: They are really easy to make. I hope you try them soon.