Ricotta Gnocchi

A few days ago while online, I came across a relatively stress-free recipe from Mark Bittman for ricotta gnocchi. Although I was tempted to use it as a subject for a post, the recipe’s gnocchi looked more like huge rounded dumplings than the more typical small pillow-shaped pasta most people associate with gnocchi.

So I looked elsewhere on the web for other ricotta gnocchi recipes and eventually settled on one by Geoffrey Zakarian. The recipe, accompanied by a video of his preparing the dish on a Food Network show, yielded gnocchi that resembled the potato versions I’ve made before.

In the video, the process looked not only effortless but foolproof. Executing the recipe in real time, however, proved to be quite another story. I should have known better than to follow blindly any recipe from the Food Network since, more often than not, the printed recipe doesn’t match the videoed one. Moreover, it’s my belief that the proverbial “magic of television” often shows a finished dish that’s been tweaked behind the scenes and touched up by a food stylist. But this is a subject for a future “musing” here.

My experience last night is chronicled. In retrospect, could’ves, should’ves, and would’ves keep echoing in my brain. I could’ve gone to trusted cookbooks; I should’ve trusted myself and used drained ricotta; I would’ve used less flour. . .

I believe that the photos in this post will show where I went wrong, especially the one of the finished ball of dough. Perhaps “sinkers”  is an apt description of the gnocchi.

Fortunately, I used my own recipe for a pancetta-tomato sauce and had enough remaining to serve two helpings of perfectly al’ dente gemelli.



Kosher salt
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Semolina flour, for dusting

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

2. Combine the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, olive oil, eggs and 1 teaspoon salt with a whisk in a large mixing bowl.

Ricotta, Parmigiano, Oil, and Eggs
After whisking

3. Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, stirring with a rubber spatula.

Adding the flour

4. Bring the dough together in a ball and cut off one-quarter of it. Dust the work surface with all-purpose flour to prevent sticking

The Dough Ball

5. Roll the cut- off piece of dough into a dowel shape about 5/8 inch in diameter.

Dowel-shaped dough

6. Cut the dowel into 5/8-inch pieces. Dust some parchment paper with semolina flour and place the gnocchi on it to prevent sticking. Repeat with the rest of the dough, quarter by quarter.

Cut Gnocchi

7. Cook the gnocchi in the boiling water for 2 minutes.

The cooked gnocchi

8. Serve tossed with a bit of the Pancetta Tomato Sauce. Alternatively, you can freeze the  uncooked gnocchi for up to 2 weeks.

My save-the-day gemelli alternative:

Gemelli with Pancetta-Tomato Sauce

Wine Pairing: Dolcetto d’Alba

4 thoughts on “Ricotta Gnocchi: A Recipe Gone Wrong

  1. I have often been asked by friends or family for my “recipe” for gnocchi-be they ricotta, potato, butternut squash or others. Not to be evasive nor secretive, I tell them that it’s not a recipe but a technique with many variables, and I offer to have them watch me. What’s the age/moisture content of the potatoes? Were they baked or boiled? What kind of ricotta am I using-sheep? cow? Time of year? How well/long was it drained? Size of the egg? Variability in the flour, etc. It’s when the dough gets to a certain “feel” that I think I’m ready. I’ll often put a small pot of water on to simmer, and then pinch a little dough, and make one gnoccho. I’d rather err on the side of too little flour, which would be evidenced by the dumpling falling apart in the water, then cooking it and finding out that’s too dense already. Not much you can do at that point. For me, it seems to like making pasta dough-the recipe is only an approximation, depending on those aforementioned variables, and it’s been a matter of trial, error, making mistakes and having some successes that give you a sense of how to make it work right. But it seems that unlike the person who makes them everyday, whenever you make them just occasionally, you’re always up against the same challenges.

      1. It’s especially helpful when making something like Spinach Ricotta Gnudi, since they are so delicate and tender. Not just for potato gnocchi; we’ve all likely had or made “sinkers”. Sometimes, if I’m making ricotta cavatelli, I can tell by just passing them through the hand-crank machine, by their consistency whether they will hold together or not. Again, I’d rather start testing a little early and add flour. Think it’s also important not to overwork the dough. Buona fortuna!

      2. “Sinkers” is how I would describe what I made last night. Luckily I only made half a batch intending to freeze the remainder, which ultimately wound up in the trash. Again, thanks for your feedback. Grazie mille.

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