…it is a ball of cheese, that is somehow also light and fluffy and airy, but it’s still a ball of cheese. And it’s warm and a little bit gooey inside, but with a taste delicate enough to showcase sweet summer squash. Don’t eat this with a heavy sauce, but drizzle it with butter browned until just nutty.
First, about the ricotta: Do not buy the watery supermarket ricotta. This time, I used Angelo & Franco from Fresh & Easy, but look for anything sold in a basket like this so that it can drain:
Even better, make your own ricotta like Deb from Smitten Kitchen. I used her recipe for ricotta last time I made this dish, but it’s so yummy you will want to slather it on bread or tomatoes or anything in sight before you have the chance to turn it into gnocchi.
10 oz well-drained ricotta cheese
1/2 tablespoon melted salted butter
6 large leaves of fresh basil, chopped or chiffonade
1/3 cup finely grated hard Italian cheese (I have used Parmesan, Grana Padano, and Romano before and all work well.)
Salt to taste (I used about 1/8 teaspoon, but adjust according to the saltiness of your cheese.)
4 tablespoons butter for the sauce
1 medium-size zucchini
Beat the ricotta in a medium bowl with a fork for a few minutes. Add the melted butter, egg, basil, and parmesan. Beat the whole thing for awhile, as the longer you do this, the lighter the gnocchi will end up. I don’t always do this step, but this time I added a tablespoon of flour to the batter as well. The absence of flour is what makes these gnocchi so light, yet I found after a test poach I needed just the smallest amount to keep them from breaking apart once they hit the simmering water.
At this point, taste your mixture. Add salt as necessary. If you have cherry tomatoes laying around, take a break to smear some of this stuff onto a tomato half and top with a basil leaf. This should hold you over until your gnocchi is ready.
Ok, now you are ready to form the gnocchi. Coat a dinner plate or a pan in flour. Get a spoonful of the mixture, and drop a ball of it onto the plate of flour. You may need to use your hand to slide it off the spoon. Sprinkle some flour on the top and sides, then roll it around to lightly coat. These do not have to be beautiful, perfect ovals. In fact, mine weren’t much to look at:
Line a pan with parchment paper and sprinkle with flour, and add the gnocchi to this pan. This recipe makes about 15 gnocchi. It’s a good idea to test one first, to make sure it is sturdy enough not to fall apart. If it falls apart in the water, add more flour a teaspoon at a time. Once your gnocchi have been formed, put the pan in the freezer for about 20 minutes. This will keep them sturdier for cooking.
While the gnocchi is cooling, cut your squash into matchsticks. (Judy Rogers suggests some excellent accompaniments to the gnocchi itself on Epicurious. The squash matchsticks is by far my favorite, because as Judy says, its subtle flavor only becomes clearer next to the gnocchi.)
Before you begin to cook your gnocchi, spray a piece of foil with cooking spray and place squash on it. Sprinkle with salt, and fold the foil over so that it forms a packet. Place in a 425 degree oven. This should cook for no more than 10-15 minutes. When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, put the 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and turn to low. Then, add your cooled gnocchi to a simmering pot of water. Cook 3-5 minutes before draining. As the gnocchi is cooking, watch the butter. You’ll want to take it off the heat the second it turns brown and starts to smell nutty and delicious.
If you’ve timed it right, the three elements will be ready at once. I had 3 girls over, so plated these as appetizers, with 3 gnocchi per plate. Place a handful of zucchini into the center, and drizzle the whole thing with brown butter. This would serve as appetizers for 4, or a light dinner for 2.
❤ Megs ‘n Eggs
Adapted from Epicurious Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi and Cooking off the Cuff Ricotta Gnocchi. Inspired by Deb’s Rich Homemade Riccota