I love gnocchi, but it can be a tad difficult to get right. Unless you want something with enough rubber to deal with the Bruce Highway in a Queensland downpour, you need to dry the spuds out properly, and not overwork them, and blah blah flipping blah.
There are a time and place for that sort of effort, and late on a Saturday afternoon when you still have a word count to achieve is not one of them.
That’s when these little pillows of deceptively light, surprisingly cheesy yumminess come into their own. Strictly speaking, these are dumplings or gnudi, not gnocchi, but another thing I can’t be faffed with is getting hung up on titles. Life would be so much better without them. Life would also be so much better with more tea and scones, but that’s another story entirely – and one you’ll have to wait for my new novel to read.
I usually serve this with a fresh home-made tomato sauce. The other night I had a bag full of red capsicums that were a few days beyond salad standard, so roasted the cheeks with some olive oil and garlic until they were blistered and popped them in a ziplock bag to steam. Once cool enough to handle the skins come off quite easily. I then chopped the flesh (that sounds a little extreme) and mixed it through my tomato…just for a change. It added a sort of smoky sweetness.
The tomato sauce is a simple one. Just dice an onion finely, shop or grate a couple of cloves of garlic into it and cook it sloooooowly in olive oil over low heat until it’s soft and golden. Stir in a tin of crushed tomatoes, a good handful of chopped basil, and season to taste – the usual salt and pepper, although sometimes if the tomatoes are particularly acidic you might need a pinch of sugar too. Then leave it to simmer quietly on its own for half an hour or so.
We’d bought some fresh Crème Fraiche – I know, it sounds like a bit of a contradiction – from the Gympie Cheese Man at the markets on Saturday so stirred a spoonful of that through at the end.
The Ricotta Dumplings
What you need:
- 250g ricotta
- 250g freshly grated pecorino or romano, or parmesan
- 1 egg
- pinch nutmeg
- 1 cup plain flour
- pinch salt
- You’ll also need a couple of handfuls of chopped continental parsley and some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano to serve.
What you do with it:
- In a large bowl, mix together the cheeses and nutmeg. When evenly together, add the egg, half the flour, and salt. Get your hands into it. Add enough of the rest of the flour to make a stiff dough.
- Now get rolling. Throw enough flour onto your bench to stop the dough from sticking and form the mix into around 6 cylinders approx. 30cm long and 1cm in diameter. Put the ruler away – I said approx. As you can see from the photo, we’re far from precious and they still taste great.
- Cut each cylinder into pieces around 1.5cm and press lightly with the back of a fork, pulling towards you. It’s these forkie bits that hold onto the sauce. Don’t tell anyone but I got sick of the whole rolling caper halfway through and just started pulling little bits of dough off and rolling it into balls before doing the back of the fork thing. Hubby did comment about how they were all different sizes, but seriously, life’s too short.
- Bring some water to the boil in a large saucepan and lightly salt it. Cook the gnudi in batches- once they rise to the surface (after about 2 mins) they’re done.
- Remove them and keep warm.
- Pour over your tomato sauce and serve with parsley and the extra cheese.