Thursday, 14 May 2009

First Daring Cooks Challenge ! - Ricotta Gnocchi

For those that don't know Daring Bakers now has a sister.. Daring Cooks for all those out there who prefer none baking recipes. The posting date for Daring cooks is halfway between the Baking ones to give those of us doing both more chance to manage it without going mad !

As this is the first month there could be only one set of hosts the two who started the whole thing in the first place Lis and Ivonne from La mia Cucina and cream puffs in Venice.

For our first challenge they chose Ricotta Gnocchi!

As they said" a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook."

I like this challenge, for a start with the exception of the dusting flour it's naturally gluten free, secondly I have been meaning to try Gnocchi for ages, you see I never even heard of the potato sort before I went gluten free and all the pre-made ones have wheat flour in them so I've never had gnocchi at all but had been wanting to have a go at them for a good while now and I'd never even heard of ricotta gnocchi till we were presented with the recipe !

This was one challenge I got on with and completed within days of it being posted, before I did the Baking challenge I've already posted in fact but I have had to hang on till now to tell you all about it which was a struggle as it is a great Gluten Free dish !

I even made the ricotta myself from scratch partly so I could show my five year old what curds and whey are, he remembered the nursery rhyme without probing too and asked if that was what Miss Tuffet was eating ! He thought it was fascinating but refused to actually try the cheese. I though it was very tasty though. I got the instructions from the Daring Baker forum posted by Libby and they were very simple. I used organic milk and it was very creamy and tasty, more so than most shop bought I've tried..

Home made ricotta

5 cups milk
2 tbs lemon juice

Boil milk till foamy. Remove from heat. Add lemon juice. Let sit for 5 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth and press for several hours to remove water. Yield: 1 cup cheese.


As for the gnoochi, the recipe as we were given it is below.

The mix was very soft but I did not find shaping the dumplings difficult though I disagree that putting them in the fridge helped firm them up I just found that it made them more sticky. The amount from this recipe made enough for three of us for two meals so one cup of cheese would be enough for one meal for us. It did however allow me to try freezing the dumplings and I am pleased to tell you that worked very well, though they needed another liberal coating of flour to be move able and to stop them sticking to the plate they defrosted on.

We had the gnoochi for two meals, once with a simple tomato, onion and bacon sauce and once on a bed of spinach with green beans and a vegetable rice dish as an accompaniment. Both were very good and others have fried them and even done sweet versions.

Pop over to the Daring Kitchen to see other versions, as this is the first month I am not sure if there is a blog roll as such yet but I am sure they will be posting something up, or you could join and start doing the challanges yourself. I know I've learnt a lot on the last couple of years doing the Daring Bakers and had a huge amount of fun and lots of great food !.


Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi

Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.

Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6)

Prep time: Step 1 will take 24 hours. Steps 2 through 4 will take approximately 1 hour.


- If you can find it, use fresh ricotta. As Judy Rodgers advises in her recipe, there is no substitute for fresh ricotta. It may be a bit more expensive, but it's worth it.
- Do not skip the draining step. Even if the fresh ricotta doesn't look very wet, it is. Draining the ricotta will help your gnocchi tremendously.
- When shaping your gnocchi, resist the urge to over handle them. It's okay if they look a bit wrinkled or if they're not perfectly smooth.
- If you're not freezing the gnocchi for later, cook them as soon as you can. If you let them sit around too long they may become a bit sticky.
- For the variations to the challenge recipe, please see the end of the recipe.

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 (I used Dove Farm Gluten Free Plain flour)

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.


  1. Beautiful job as usual, Esther! They look mouth watering!

  2. Very interesting and lovely story about teaching your child about curds and whey so sweet. Great work on this first challenge and I just love your pix. Nice that you made your own ricotta. Cheers from Australia - Audax

  3. Your gnocchi look amazing!! The homemade-ricotta sounds wonderful =D.

  4. Great job! I wish I had made my own Ricotta...seems easy enough. Can't wait to try this again!

  5. Good job!!
    Your ricotta looks almost professional, well done!

  6. Great job on the challenge... and extra props for making your own ricotta!

  7. Great job! Both versions look and sound amazing!

  8. I love that you made your own ricotta. I have got to do that sometime since I'm sure it's healthier than the commercial variety.

    My gnocchi was horribly ugly. Nice job.

  9. yay for gluten free gnocchi! I was so excited to make this recipe because I had tried GF gnocchi in the past before and failed miserably. I'm so glad that this was so GF friendly to make! I wish I had the time to make my own ricotta though, kudos to you!

  10. i made my own ricotta in exactly the same way - it was great! i'll def be doing that again, even if i don't make the gnocchi again.

  11. Your gnocchi and homemade ricotta sound so delicious!

  12. I'm so impressed with all of the homemade ricotta from the Daring Cooks. Great job on this challenge--they look fabulous!