Italian ricotta gnocchi are soft pillowy dumplings made from flour, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. It is easier to make than you’d expect and pairs beautifully with tomato sauce, or simply tossed with butter and herbs. Learn how to make your own homemade gnocchi in less than 30 minutes.
I was fortunate to have lots of family surrounding me as I was growing up. The home we lived in included several apartments and my grandparents and great aunt lived above us on the second floor. My grandmother and her sister came to the United States from Italy when they were children. Their father arrived many years previous to start a new life and become established as a mason before sending for his wife and children.
Not surprisingly, Italian meals with various homemade pastas and tomato sauce made from ingredients from our gardens were often served at our large Sunday dinners. Ricotta gnocchi (pronounced N’YAW-kee) was among my favorites.
Auntie’s Homemade Gnocchi
Like many Italian dishes, there is a considerable variation in recipes across different regions. My family brought with them way of making gnocchi with flour, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, and served with a homemade tomato sauce.
I do remember the first time Auntie showed my father and I how to make gnocchi. She used a large cutting board and her hands to mix the ingredients explaining to us that you had to go by the way the dough felt.
She didn’t measure anything. First she placed a few scoopfuls of flour on the board, and then made a well in the center where she added the ingredients. Using just her fingers, she pulled in the flour from the sides, and mixed the dough together until combined. She continued kneading the dough until it formed a ball, adding a sprinkling of flour every now and then until it felt right to her.
Then she pinched off sections of the dough and rolled them into a long rope shape. With a knife, she quickly cut the dough at an angle into uniform dumpling shapes, and then flicked them down the tines of a fork giving them a scoop like indention on one side grooves on the other. She accomplished this so quickly that it was almost hard to follow. She made it look so easy.
Auntie would line up the gnocchi on well-floured towels, and let them set for a bit before dropping them by the handful into a large pot of boiling salted water. Once they floated, they were done.
She scooped them out with a slotted spoon and placed them in a large serving bowl, ladled warm tomato sauce over the pasta, and stirred with a wooden spoon until they were coated. The bowl was placed in the center of the table and we would scoop out servings of gnocchi onto our plates and smother them with more sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
Steps to Make Italian Ricotta Gnocchi
This recipe for ricotta gnocchi is the way my Italian Aunt Mary made it. Without a written recipe, we had to measure the ingredients and adjust the ratios until the dough met Auntie’s approval. After lots of practice, we were able to nail down a basic recipe for ricotta gnocchi that brings back warm memories of Sunday dinners with my family.
You’ll need flour, whole milk ricotta cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, eggs, salt, and tomato sauce. If your ricotta is watery, be sure to drain the extra moisture or your gnocchi dough will be too wet. If you don’t have prepared tomato sauce on hand, consider whipping up a batch of summer tomato sauce using fresh tomatoes.
The full detailed recipe can be found at the bottom of this article, but here are the steps to making ricotta gnocchi from scratch.
Step 1: Make the Dough
Add the flour to a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add the drained ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. Mix until combined.
Step 2: Form the Dumplings
Turn the mixture to a well-floured board and begin gently kneading. Add more flour as necessary until dough stops sticking to your fingers. Form into a large ball.
Divide the dough into four sections, and roll each section into 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope in 1-inch pieces.
To make the ridges, roll each piece down the tines of a fork or gnocchi board. It’s ok if they look a little funny, it will take some practice to get the pressure correct.
Sprinkle gnocchi with a little flour to prevent sticking, spread them out, and allow them to rest a bit while you heat the sauce and water.
Step 3: Cook the Gnocchi
Add the tomato sauce to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, gently add the gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface. This only takes a few minutes.
Drain and place the dumplings into a large serving bowl. Spoon tomato sauce over gnocchi and stir lightly with a wooden spoon until mixed. Serve family style with extra sauce, grated Parmesan cheese, garlic bread, and a side salad with Italian salad dressing.
How to Freeze Gnocchi for Later
Gnocchi can be frozen for future meals. After forming the gnocchi, place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking tray and freeze until solid, about an hour. Flash freezing before storing in freezer bags will help prevent the pieces from sticking together and allow you to grab a handful when needed.
Place the frozen gnocchi into freezer bags, remove the air, and seal the bag. Label, date, and store in the freezer for up to 4 months. Cook the frozen gnocchi in boiling water until they float, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Ricotta Gnocchi in Tomato Sauce
- In a large bowl, add the flour. Make a well in the center and add ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, and salt. Mix until combined.
- Turn mixture to a well-floured board and begin gently kneading. Add more flour as necessary until dough stops sticking to your fingers. Form into a large ball.
- Divide the dough into four sections. Roll each section into 1/2-inch-thick rope. Cut each rope in 1-inch pieces.
- To make the ridges, roll each piece down the tines of a fork or gnocchi board.
- Sprinkle gnocchi with flour as needed to prevent sticking. Spread them out and allow them rest a bit while you heat the sauce and boil the water.
- Add the tomato sauce to a medium saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.
- Gently add the gnocchi to the boiling water and cook until they float to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes.
- Remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and place into a large serving bowl. Spoon sauce over gnocchi and stir lightly with a wooden spoon until mixed. Serve with extra tomato sauce and grated Parmesan cheese.
This recipe was originally published on January 27, 2015. It has been updated with clearer instructions, new photos, and a video showing the process.
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