Little Pillows of Cheese

This month marks the inaugural installment of the Daring Cooks challenges, and the recipe chosen was Zuni Cafe’s ricotta gnocchi. To be honest, gnocchi isn’t my favorite, but I’ve tried making several varieties in the past, ricotta included, and this was one of the best I’ve made, texture-wise.

For this challenge, I decided to step up and use freshly made ricotta cheese, which I’ve also done before, but I only made a half-gallon batch because I feel guilty using up Nolan’s whole milk. I drained my fresh ricotta in a tea towel tied up and set over a strainer. Every so often I pulled it out of the fridge and gave it a good squeeze; weighting didn’t seem to help that much.

By the next day, I had 7.5 ounces of thoroughly dry ricotta, so I halved the gnocchi recipe. When I was ready to make my gnocchi, I actually had trouble with the recipe’s instructions to break up the curds using a spoon or rubber spatula. I recalled another Daring Cook using a ricer to break up the ricotta, but mine was too firm for that either. I ended up popping it in the food processor, along with an extra-large egg, and some lemon zest for flavoring.

Because my ricotta was so very dry, I had no problems with shaping my gnocchi. I used a 2-tsp disher to scoop balls of batter into the flour, so it took no time at all. I was confident enough that I threw caution to the wind and dropped a plateful of gnocchi in the boiling water without doing a test-run; they came out light and fluffy, with no signs of disintegration, and while they cooked, I made up a quick sauce.

I sauced my gnocchi with a simple tomato-butter sauce: half a stick of butter melted with a tablespoon of tomato paste, a pinch of thyme, and a splash of lemon juice whisked in, and a tablespoon of capers sprinkled in at the last moment. Once the gnocchi were cooked, I transferred them into the skillet with the sauce and gave them all a few minutes to meld.

The gnocchi was delicious, rich but light, with the flavor of the fresh cheese shining through. We both liked the sauce, and Jeremy imagined that it had some sort of chile spice in it, to my surprise. In all, it was a straightforward recipe, and I would definitely recommend making the ricotta fresh. I do have to admit that I missed the traditional gnocchi shaping, just because it is really fun to roll those little bits of dough off a fork, but the scoop-and-dredge method probably saved me a little time. If you’d like to make your own gnocchi, the recipe can be found here; and be sure to behold all the brilliant Daring Cooks variations via the Daring Cooks Blogroll.

I am a member of the Daring Cooks. For more information and a list of my previous challenges, click here.

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