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.
16 oz. container ricotta cheese (pour off excess liquid)
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.