There’s no mistaking Southern cuisine for Italian, but there’s a pretty big point where they intersect. I didn’t taste polenta until I was a full-fledged adult but ate grits nearly every morning of my childhood and sometimes for supper too. I never heard of prosciutto or pancetta growing up, but country ham and bacon were staples.
And then there’s gnocchi. My first experience making them was on a press trip in my early thirties, but I didn’t have any trouble picking up the technique. I had been making dumplings for chicken stew since I was a kid.
That was twenty years ago and I’ve been making gnocchi ever since. But always the potato variety. (For a great sweet potato gnocchi recipe, check out Sharon’s. It’s superb.)
I had eaten ricotta gnocchi before, but never made them. For some reason, now seemed the time.
Now that I have, I’m wondering what took so long. Compared with the potato variety, ricotta gnocchi are super simple. No cooking potatoes and waiting for them to cool. No chance of overworking the dough and making them tough. Simply fork stir ricotta, flour, grated Parmesan, salt, and egg together. Divide the dough into balls, roll the balls into ropes, cut the ropes into short pieces. Boil, sauce, serve.
The only trick to making ricotta gnocchi is getting the dough texture right. You want it supple but not sticky. Since ricotta moisture content varies from brand to brand, there’s no way to give an exact flour amount. Depending on ricotta style, flour quantity will vary. I give a range—start with the smaller amount and add as needed.
The dough comes together so quickly that if you’re efficient, you can almost have them rolled and cut by the time the water comes to the boil, so make sure your sauce is simmering and your water is heating. Once the gnocchi are made, you’re only 3 to 4 minutes from sitting down to eat.
Gnocchi makes a great weeknight meatless meal—no deprivation here. Give it a try. If you like Italian, it’ll soon be on your list of faves.