6 Tips to Take Your Homemade Gnocchi to the Next Level
First, try using ricotta instead of potatoes—it’ll give you perfectly fluffy dumplings ready in just 20 minutes.
Gnocchi are one of the world’s great comfort foods. There are dozens of kinds, a whole world of shapes and sizes. Some contain breadcrumbs. Others cheese, herbs, or purees. The most pervasive form of gnocchi contains potato, but gnocchi can thrive without this common ingredient. How? By marrying flour with ricotta instead.
Ricotta gnocchi aren’t a new take on an old food. Rather, they’re an old-school version that has gained recent popularity. Why? Partly because they’re easy. Boiling, peeling, and handling hot potatoes is the hardest part of making potato gnocchi. When you instead start with ricotta out of the fridge, you begin from something cool, flavorful, and easy to handle. With just ricotta, flour, and 20 minutes, you can make the perfect ricotta gnocchi—so long as you follow these six simple steps.
Skip the egg
First, gnocchi recipes tend to call for egg, but there’s no need for one. Egg helps ingredients bind together into a dough. But using an egg introduces extra moisture, and this makes for a dough requiring more flour. More flour isn’t good. The less flour you use, the fluffier your final gnocchi. Skipping the egg lets you use less flour, making for a fluffier meal. (Don’t worry — your ricotta will hold the dough together.)
Don’t overdo it with the flour
Try to use as little flour as possible—even when working without an egg. You want the dough to be just a little, little bit sticky. If you use so much flour that the dough loses its stickiness completely, you’ll be on a highway to denser gnocchi.
Nail the basic technique
Making gnocchi comes with fantastic creative possibilities. When forming dough, you can build in flavor layers with additions. Cheese. Spices. Anything you can dream. But before thinking about next-level flavorings, become comfortable with a basic ricotta gnocchi method. You’ll need whole milk ricotta (one cup), white flour (half a cup plus two tablespoons), grated Parmesan (one tablespoon), and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper. These amounts will yield enough gnocchi for two people.
Use your hands for mixing
Using your hands lets you feel the dough’s stickiness. Again, you want to use as little flour as possible, but, at the same time, you need to use enough for the dough to reach a firmness that will allow you to easily shape the dumplings. Using a little too much flour the first time or two you make ricotta gnocchi is fine. It isn’t a deal breaker. You’ll get a feel for your lower flour limits with some experience.
Take your time when shaping your gnocchi
Once you’ve massaged these ingredients into a uniform ball, you’re ready to shape gnocchi. Note that you don’t have to knead the dough. Simply lightly flour a work surface (for rolling dough) and a baking sheet or pair of plates (for holding gnocchi). Tear a golf-ball-sized chunk from your dough. On the floured surface, roll it out into a rope half an inch thick. Using a butter or pastry knife, cut the rope into pieces about one-half inch by one-half inch. Put these pieces on your tray. There’s no need to mark the gnocchi with a fork to create furrows, but you can if you want.
Repeat with a second golf-ball-sized hunk. Repeat until your original mass of dough is gone, transformed into a tray of gnocchi ready for cooking.
Don’t let your water reach a full boil
Cooking gnocchi only takes two or three minutes. Unlike pasta, gnocchi don’t require fully boiling water. In fact, coking gnocchi at a light boil or a strong simmer is a wise method. Doing so makes for a gentle environment, whereas a harder boil can break gnocchi apart. Also, cooking below a boil won’t add much to the cook time, because gnocchi cook so fast anyway.
Once yours have bobbed to the surface, give them another 15 or 30 seconds before you remove them with a slotted spoon. Transfer your gnocchi directly to their sauce, be it pesto, marinara, butter and sage, or whatever you’ve prepared. Be sure to toss the gnocchi and let the sauce coat and permeate into them. Toss thoroughly but gently, keeping your comforting ricotta gnocchi whole and ready to be eaten.