This is the first Daring Cooks Challenge - Ricotta Gnocchi - Parsley, Sage, and Sweet

This is the first Daring Cooks Challenge – Ricotta Gnocchi

May 13, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Posted in Daring Cooks, Dinner, Italian, Lunch, Pasta, Vegetables | 66 Comments
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Yeah, I know, not the most original title, is it?  To put it simply, I barely pulled this one out.  Some life altering stuff has happened in the past two weeks that has frozen me completely. Without getting into details, I NEARLY lost someone whom I love with all my heart, and I DID lose someone who I loved with all my heart (cue Billy Vera song here).  It’s a good thing I started this challenge 3 weeks ago, making the homemade ricotta, gnocchi, and freezing them, or else this entry would probably cease to exist.

ricotta It started with this…remember this?  Very dry Homemade Ricotta is definitely the best option for these fluffy dumplings.

To add insult to injury (literally), I had to see my surgeon today because my knee felt wobbly and it hurt to walk.  He fiddled with it and immediately ordered X-Rays.  Turns out my knee has weakened because I haven’t done much with it the past two weeks and I’m not getting enough nutrition due to the usual loss of appetite that plagues a person when they lose someone they love, especially out of left field – and to someone else.  OK, I’m stopping here, as I don’t want to depress anyone any longer!!  However, I’m not feeling my usual chatty self, so anything funny or witty might be in low supply.  How funny is it that I’m mixing photos of food in with my tales of woe?  Score 1 for the use of the word ‘funny’ twice!


On to the brand new, first ever, Daring Cooks Challenge.  I’ll just start by adding THE paragraph.  Wait there is no paragraph.  Could it be that the DB-Bot has snubbed the DC?  Oh well, I’ll post what they posted in the DBK forum.

We have chosen a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.

IMG_0177                                        I added some black pepper to the batter

Ok, that was easy, but a ‘recipe’?  I’ll go one further and add that they have chosen the Ricotta Gnocchi from The Zuni  Café Cookbook.  There, I feel better.  Thanks Lis (my girl crush) and Ivonne!

When this challenge was announced, I had several sauces in mind, such as this amazing turkey sausage bolognese or wild mushroom ragout.  I was also going to add some vanilla bean to another half batch of gnocchi batter (yep, this recipe for gnocchi is literally a batter) and float them in a chocolate soup, kind of like chicken and dumpling soup for the ass.  However, due to the aforementioned circumstances, I lost the desire, so I quickly thought something up this morning, prior to my doctor’s apppintment.

I roasted some fresh corn and tomatoes with olive oil, and sauteed some cremini, oyster, and shiitake mushrooms with butter, shallots and a little vermouth to deglaze.  I also took advantage of my sprouting herb garden and julienned some fresh sage to top off whatever it turned out to be.   Finally, I shredded and baked some parmesan cheese to make little bowls and curled crisps, still not knowing where it was going to end up, but hey, at least I had SOMETHING for my gnocchi.

IMG_0198                    I tried to form little squares, but the batter was just too delicate, so I turned them into a sort of Gnudi.

As I surveyed everything in front of me, while my mother was in my kitchen undercooking and annihilating my gnocchi (DAMN), I started to think about what I could do.  Using the gnocchi I could salvage, which was a pretty good amount considering they were not cooked properly, I took a parmesan bowl and started to build, and build, and build.  Soon I had two little towers of wild mushrooms, corn, tomato, ricotta gnocchi and sage.  Oooh, pretty – now what would make it better?  Of course, a drizzle of white truffle oil!

OK, now what to do with the rest of the gnocchi.  AHA, gratins!  Easy peasy (Yeah, I quoted you, J. Oliver – so what?)  I tossed the rest of the gnocchi with the rest of the mushrooms, corn, and tomatoes, divided them into gratin dishes, poured on some cream, black pepper and a good sprinkling of shredded parmesan cheese and under the broiler they went.  A bit of itty bitty baby sage leaves finished it off.  The gratins were served with the remaining parmesan crisps.

I did it, I managed to pull this one out even though I feel like a zombie.  Score another one for me and my bleeding heart (insert empty sarcasm).

I really can’t review this gnocchi properly since it was undercooked, but hey, everyone else seemed to like it, so I’ll just say they are EXTREMELY delicate.  I wish I had the photos to show you how much so, but at the time I was making them there was no one around to hold the camera and snap away while I scooped with the spoon and rolled them in flour.  Not to mention, no boiling photos either, since 1) As you already know, can’t use the kitchen yet, and 2) I spared you all the mess dear old mom made of them..LOL – BUT, it was sweet of her to help. as she hates to cook!

Finally, I guess you could say my gnocchi flopped, as did my photos, which I barely paid attention to.  I just snapped a few, as opposed to the usual 100, not even caring about the lighting or settings.  Just for the hell of it, even though I knew they weren’t up to par, I submitted one to foodgawker.  As expected, it was rejected as ‘dull and unsharp’, and I thought to myself .. ‘Amazing how my photo reflects how I feel and who I am at this time’ — But, hey – like I blubbered about above, at least I pulled off this challenge, albeit not to my satisfaction, in the nick of time.



Equipment required:

– Sieve
– Cheesecloth or paper towels
– Large mixing bowl
– Rubber spatula
– Tablespoon
– Baking dish or baking sheet
– Wax or parchment paper
– Small pot
– Large skillet
– Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter and at least 2 inches deep)

Videos that might help:

Judy Rodgers Gnocchi Demo
Making fresh ricotta demo
- Making ricotta gnocchi

For the gnocchi:

1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups)
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional)
½ ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed)
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi

For the gnocchi sauce:

8 tablespoons (227 grams/1/4 pound/4 ounces) butter, sliced
2 teaspoons water

Step 1 (the day before you make the gnocchi): Preparing the ricotta.

If the ricotta is too wet, your gnocchi will not form properly. In her cookbook, Judy Rodgers recommends checking the ricotta’s wetness. To test the ricotta, take a teaspoon or so and place it on a paper towel. If you notice a very large ring of dampness forming around the ricotta after a minute or so, then the ricotta is too wet. To remove some of the moisture, line a sieve with cheesecloth or paper towels and place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it and let it drain for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) and suspend it in your refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours with a bowl underneath to catch the water that’s released. Either way, it’s recommended that you do this step the day before you plan on making the gnocchi.

Step 2 (the day you plan on eating the gnocchi): Making the gnocchi dough.

To make great gnocchi, the ricotta has to be fairly smooth. Place the drained ricotta in a large bowl and mash it as best as you can with a rubber spatula or a large spoon (it’s best to use a utensil with some flexibility here). As you mash the ricotta, if you noticed that you can still see curds, then press the ricotta through a strainer to smooth it out as much as possible.

Add the lightly beaten eggs to the mashed ricotta.

Melt the tablespoon of butter. As it melts, add in the sage if you’re using it. If not, just melt the butter and add it to the ricotta mixture.

Add in any flavouring that you’re using (i.e., nutmeg, lemon zest, etc.). If you’re not using any particular flavouring, that’s fine.

Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the salt.

Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft and fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).

Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.

Fill a small pot with water and bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously and keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together and that your gnocchi batter isn’t too damp.

In a large, shallow baking dish or on a sheet pan, make a bed of all-purpose flour that’s ½ an inch deep.

With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl and form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.

Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter and then holding the spoon at an angle, use your finger tip to gently push the ball of dough from the spoon into the bed of flour.

At this point you can either shake the dish or pan gently to ensure that the flour covers the gnocchi or use your fingers to very gently dust the gnocchi with flour. Gently pick up the gnocchi and cradle it in your hand rolling it to form it in an oval as best as you can, at no point should you squeeze it. What you’re looking for is an oval lump of sorts that’s dusted in flour and plump.

Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink and then bob to the top. From the time that it bobs to the surface, you want to cook the gnocchi until it’s just firm. This could take 3 to 5 minutes.

If your gnocchi begins to fall apart, this means that the ricotta cheese was probably still too wet. You can remedy this by beating a teaspoon of egg white into your gnocchi batter. If your gnocchi batter was fluffy but the sample comes out heavy, add a teaspoon of beaten egg to the batter and beat that in. Test a second gnocchi to ensure success.

Form the rest of your gnocchi. You can put 4 to 6 gnocchi in the bed of flour at a time. But don’t overcrowd your bed of flour or you may damage your gnocchi as you coat them.

Have a sheet pan ready to rest the formed gnocchi on. Line the sheet pan with wax or parchment paper and dust it with flour.

You can cook the gnocchi right away, however, Judy Rodgers recommends storing them in the refrigerator for an hour prior to cooking to allow them to firm up.

Step 4: Cooking the gnocchi.

Have a large skillet ready to go. Place the butter and water for the sauce in the skillet and set aside.

In the largest pan or pot that you have (make sure it’s wide), bring at least 2 quarts of water to a boil (you can use as much as 3 quarts of water if your pot permits). You need a wide pot or pan so that your gnocchi won’t bump into each other and damage each other.

Once the water is boiling, salt it generously.

Drop the gnocchi into the water one by one. Once they float to the top, cook them for 3 to 5 minutes (as in the case with the test gnocchi).

When the gnocchi float to the top, you can start your sauce while you wait for them to finish cooking.

Place the skillet over medium heat and melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts and is incorporated with the water, turn off the heat. Your gnocchi should be cooked by now

With a slotted spoon, remove the gnocchi from the boiling water and gently drop into the butter sauce. Carefully roll in the sauce until coated. Serve immediately.

Variations: For the gnocchi, you can flavour them however you wish. If you want to experiment by adding something to your gnocchi (i.e., caramelized onion, sundried tomato), feel free to do so. However, be forewarned, ricotta gnocchi are delicate and may not take well to elaborate additions. For the sauce, this is your chance to go nuts. Enjoy yourselves. Surprise us!!!

Freezing the gnocchi: If you don’t want to cook your gnocchi right away or if you don’t want to cook all of them, you can make them and freeze them. Once they are formed and resting on the flour-dusted, lined tray, place them uncovered in the freezer. Leave them for several hours to freeze. Once frozen, place them in a plastic bag. Remove the air and seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag and place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.

Be sue to check out what other Daring Cooks did with this gnocchi by clicking on the links to their blogs HERE.

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  1. In the light of difficult times, I think you did a wonderful job here. They look pretty tasty to me. Hmmm, might be because I haven’t had dinner.

  2. Lisa… I’m sorry to read about the trying times. In regards to the cooking challenge, you turned out some very nice photos and you made homemade ricotta. :)

    Hang in there we all support you!

  3. Sorry to hear about all the troubles you’re having right now!
    Considering all that (and even without that) I think you did a fantastic job on the ricotta gnocchi. They look perfect to me and you managed to make them into a far better shape then mine! It’s hard to form them into anything, so I was happy I managed any resemblance of a shape at all!

  4. Bravo Bravo Bravo on finishing the 1st DCooks’ challenge under such hard conditions – sorry to hear about all the troubles you are having. Great effort on this challenge and on making the ricotta yourself. I think your final dishes are wonderful so many nice ingredients in them. Hope things improve for you. Cheers from Audax in Australia.

  5. Sorry for your loss! :-(
    Your gnocchi look just fine and well styled.
    (and I think the turkey sausage would have been a bit too heavy on these gnocchi, much better this way! ;-) )

  6. […] This is the first Daring Cooks Challenge – Ricotta Gnocchi … Tags: Appetizers, daring, Desserts, desserts-and-line-drives, first, kitchen, photos, recipe, […]

  7. So sorry to hear life has been hard for you recently. If that is what you manage when still physically restricted and emotionally drained then I am dieing to see what you manage when fully healthy and with it. Every time I read your posts you amaze me and inspire me to get on and try when I’m down and feeling less that fully able to do things.

  8. Oh, Lisa *hugs* I’m sorry life is so rotten at the moment. But you’d never know it to look at your gloriously exuberant stack of gnocchi! Honestly, it’s a total knockout dish. I really hope life brightens up for you soon. (And eat! I’d drag you over for dinner if there wasn’t a pesky ocean in the way…)

  9. *Hugs* Lisa. As they say – Every cloud has a silver lining, so I hope you wont take it too hard. About your gnocchi, what can I say – they look wonderful! Drooling over my keyboard, it’s lunchtime here!

  10. *Hugs* Lisa. As they say – Every cloud has a silver lining, so I hope you wont take it too hard. About your gnocchi, what can I say – they look wonderful! Drooling over my keyboard, it’s lunchtime here!
    BTW I love your blog!

  11. Meeting this challenge during difficult times is remarkable. I hope that all is well now.

    Your end results look wonderful. I love the presentation and all the careful attention to detail.

  12. I’m sorry for your loss. Your gnocchi look amazing, even if they were slightly undercooked =D.

  13. Oh so sorry to hear how hard these weeks have been. Hopefully the gnocchi were therapy of a sort, but even if they were only another stress among others, they are stunning. Hope this month to come is better than the past month.

  14. I am so sorry to hear about this difficult time in your life. In spite of all of that, you managed to put out such a witty post!
    You make me want to go back and do the challenge all over again!
    What a way to kick of the DC!

  15. I am sorry to hear about the hard times :( I initially began cooking as a form of therapy. Busy hands can help clear the mind. I wish you all the strength and healing as possible.

    BEAUTIFUL gnocchi! WOW! You really turned these into a work of art :) Well done!

  16. I am sorry to here that you are going through such a rough time right now. :( Your Gnocchi look awesome! What creative presentation! And, the sauce sounds soooo good. I wish we could all taste each others Gnocchi rather then just look! :)

  17. Very well done! Both dishes look fantastic! I really love that scrumptious looking gratin!



  18. I think you did an awesome job with a heavy heart! Your dish is beautiful. I wish I had thought of drizzling truffle oil on mine since I actually have some since I thought I couldn’t live without it. Great photos.

  19. I’m sorry to hear that you are going through a difficult period. I hope you feel better soon and everything turns out well in the end.

    Your final gnocchi plates look so stunningly beautiful! See you around in the Kitchen. God bless!

  20. I’m so sorry for your loss. Even though you may not have met most of the people out in the blog world I think you can tell that we are all there for you and wish you the best.
    That being said, your gnocchi look stunning, and you did a great job!

  21. Oh sweetheart I’m so so sorry – I can’t believe you even got this up with everything you’re going through. I know I’m an almost stranger and a million miles away (ok, only a few thousand) but if you need to vent – I’m here.

  22. You always do an amazing job Lisa! This recipe was so much more delicate than any gnocchi recipe I’ve worked with before. It really was a challenge!

    I’m so sorry for all you are going through right now…hope you will heal physically and find some consolation for your loss dear one.

  23. How awful! I can’t believe you had to cook under such depressing circumstances. I’d be hiding under a rock – but then again, that’s not so healthy… so I’m GLAD you cooked! They look fantastic! :)

  24. I love gnocchi – it’s probably my favorite pasta! So glad you posted a simple how-to recipe, I want to try to make this! And ricotta cheese? BEST EVER!

  25. Sorry to hear that you were making these with a broken heart, but the end result is stunning!

  26. it looks great

  27. You’ve made this look gorgeous. Mine looked like something you’d only eat on a dare.

    And I can’t blame my knee.

    Hope you feel better soon.

  28. I think it all looks amazing. Sorry about the knee situation. Despite all that you still wrote a lovely post complete with drool worthy pictures.

  29. Oh, gosh, take care of yourself. I’m there with you–in the metaphorical boat.

    Your gnocchi look wonderful. I love the sauce you made. Isn’t truffle oil the best?

  30. I’m sorry to hear you have been having such a rough time. Hopefully better things are on the horizon.

    On another note, you did really well with this challenge. They don’t look like a flop to me!

  31. Your pictures look amazing to me! I would love to try one of the gnocchi in the Parmesan cups.

  32. Fabulous job!! Especially considering the circumstances! One day I hope to take food pics half as good as your so called “not so good” ones! Hang in there!

  33. You’re obviously made of tough stuff. Hoping better times are ahead. Your gnocchi look fabulous — truly original presentation.

  34. Lisa, I’m amazed at your wonderful creations considering what you have been going through. Hope that time helps heal for you. Out of left field loss is particularly hard. Sending virtual hugs and Well Done!

  35. Firstly *hugs*. You did a wonderful job with the gnocchi – it looks delicious! Beautiful plating and presentation – you’re so creative. Chin up gorgeous – thinking of you and sending you lots of love and light ♥

  36. i think you did a brilliant job with the gnocchi lisa and i hope life gets back on track for you.

  37. I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult the past few weeks have been for you. I’m sending some virtual hugs and my ears for listening. Your gnocchi and ricotta look so delicious.

  38. Oh, wow. I love the ways you served and presented your gnocchi – so inspired, and so very pretty. Gnocchi gratin – I shall definitely have to try that! The photographs are gorgeous too.

  39. Don’t be so hard on yourself! They look delicious and the photos look great! :D

  40. I am so sorry that you have had such an awful week. Hopefully you can find some peace in the weeks to come. Your gnocchi look very tasty, I love the idea of all the mushrooms in the sauce.

  41. Thank you for sharing your story. It is always hard to lose a love one. I am sorry to hear about your loss. Hopefully you have a number of warm memories to look back on. Cling on to them. And as long as you do, you’ll have a piece of them always with you…..

  42. Your gnocchi looks beautiful — far from a flop. But hopefully the next challenge will offer us both something a little easier to execute! Also, I hope everything that’s going on in your life gets better soon and you feel better soon. :o)

  43. you are a funny writer. even when you think you are not.

    i love the photos, and clearly you have a level of cooking skills that I could from, as you just whipped this idea up out of the blue. funny you should mention gratin. the number of gnocchi in the photos are exactly the number of gnocchi we made and ate, because i truly could not get past the texture. then we whipped the rest up with some garlic, p-san and whatnot spices and added rigatoni and voila…2 nights of gratin followed, and IT was delicious. don’t tell :)

    thank you for visiting my blog!

  44. PS i tried to add your blog to my RSS both from your site, and manually from the tool bar, and it did not work either way. i am not sure if the glitch is on your end or mine, just thought i would let you know. bummer. i shall try again tomorrow

  45. Great job! Your pictures are just beautiful….I feel like I can reach out and touch the food!

  46. That looks amazing! I’ll be thinking of you!

  47. Cooking is what helped me deal with my father’s death. Busy hands calm the mind.

    Your ricotta looks delicious and the delicate gnocchi have my mouth watering. Reading your blog after only coffed makes lunch seem a long way off.

  48. Hi Lisa,
    Sorry you’re not feeling 100%
    Being down and out SUCKS!!! Especially, the sinking and can’t do sh*t feelings…but you did great on this challenge, I love your “toss together”, I’ve found that some of the best meals come from not having a clear plan to start with and just throwing in what you’ve got.

    Get better (won’t say soon, it’s important to take as much time as you need) :)

  49. Sorry to hear about your losses and almost losses! Hang in there. By the looks of your finished dish, YUM! Great job. If it helps, the blog world loves you! ;)

  50. Lisa, how lovely yours turned out! The pictures were unbelievable, I was about to ask you to mail me a plate! They look delicious, what a great job you did! THanks for visiting my blog :)


  51. Stunning. Those are stunning.

  52. wonderful presentation!

  53. Both of your creations are as beautiful as your beaten down heart. You are perfectly, beautifullly lovable exactly as you are. I know it feels like you might never be happy again, but I promise this just opens the way for someone who delights in everything you already are to come into your life and love you the way you deserve. It’s going to be awesome!

  54. Wow, I am embarrassed by my pathetic gnocchi, yours were gorgeous. I am sorry you are having a rough patch, but the sun rises again tomorrow so we can have a fresh go at it…keep the faith.

  55. Sorry that I’ve been an absent commenter; I just finished up my law school exams and am finally getting around to my google reader. I hope that your spirits have lifted. I’m so sorry to hear about your loss. My thoughts are with you. On a side note, I think that your gnocci turned out beautifully. Great job with the challenge!

  56. What a spectacular presentation and great photos. Sorry to hear about your losses–you are a rockstar to still put out stunning gnocchi with all that happening. Cheers!

  57. Your photos are beautiful! These are the yummiest looking gnocchi I have seen. I am sorry about your difficult times, but inspired to see how well you cope. Thank you for sharing. :)

  58. I love how you shaped your gnocchi into the little rectangles. I’ll have to try that next time. Looks good!

  59. Hey Lisa, really sorry to hear about your loss. Please take care of yourself! I hope your knees are feeling better. And in a way, nice to hear that you didn’t lose another dear one. The fact that you still managed to pen down such a beautiful post tells a lot about the mental toughness you have. You are indeed a strong person :)

    And what can I say about the gnocchi, they look fab! the clicks are great :) I love how thin those parmesan crisps are!

    And now to the ‘line drives’ part of you blog ;)

    The Yankees are on a roll…FINALLY! A-ro(i)d is back with a bang…literally! And I think that has helped Tex a lot. CC finally looks like a big league pitcher and he’s been fantastic. AJ is looking solid. Hopefully Wang can join the rotation and we could go on a roll.

  60. Oh no…things do not sound good. :-( I don’t like the sound of any of this at all.

    However, I think your gnocchi — and your photos — look pretty fantastic. To the cornfields with foodgawker!!

    And speaking of “fields”…there’s suddenly a lot of long ball being played by the Yanks. I just hate that it’s all since A-roid came back.

    Hang in there, OK?

  61. Oh very sory for your lost Lisa, you’re amazing … at a difficult time you still can cook those beautiful gnocchi, I wish I can join the DC, but it’s already hard for me to keep up with things… so I’ll be just standby-er, cheering you from the sideline :)

  62. What an amazing joy you did on your first challenge. Gorgeous!

  63. What an amazing job you did Lisa, home made ricotta was definitely the way to go, I’m going to test out that recipe as it’s slightly different to my standard one. I’m so sorry to hear you are going through bad times (hug).

  64. Rich and delicous char shew…. Great creation! I am drooling !!


  65. The Zuni Cafe recipe is pretty good, but I prefer Suzanne Goins’ version from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. Suzanne’s recipe is minimalist (which is usually how I like my gnocchi).

  66. […] Taco salad in a deep-fried tortilla shell, bread bowls to serve soup in, stuffed bell peppers, oven-baked shredded parmesan cheese flats called frico’s (pronounced freak-O) . shaped into a bowl and filled with whatever suits your mood etc.  You get […]

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