Yes, I have joined another group! The Daring Cooks. The Daring Bakers have branched off into the savory & I jumped at the chance (I know, like I need one more thing to do). So, what is the amazing first challenge?
Our hosts this month are none other than our fearless leaders: Ivonne of http://www.creampuffsinvenice.ca/ and Lisa of http://llcskitchen.blogspot.com/
They chose a recipe from the stunning cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook.
“On the surface, this is a very straightforward recipe. The challenge is in the forming & handling of the gnocchi. What you do with the recipe, in terms of variations, is up to you.”
For those of us that are Alternative Daring Cooks , Shelly from Musings From The Fishbowl is here to lead us, encourage us, & answer our questions. Thank you so much Shelly! On to the recipe:
Zuni Ricotta Gnocchi
Source: From The Zuni Café Cookbook.
Yield: Makes 40 to 48 gnocchi (serves 4 to 6) mine made about 30
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.
– Sieve didn’t use
– Cheesecloth or paper towels didn’t use
– Large mixing bowl
– Rubber spatula
– Baking dish or baking sheet
– Wax or parchment paper used a silpat
– Small pot didn’t use
– Large skillet used 2 small ones
– Large pan or pot (very wide in diameter & at least 2“ deep)
For the gnocchi:
1 pound (454 grams/16 ounces) fresh ricotta (2 cups) used 1 lb super firm tofu
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten used Ener-G Egg Replacer
1 tablespoon (1/2 ounce) unsalted butter used 1 tsp
2 or 3 fresh sage leaves, or a few pinches of freshly grated nutmeg, or a few pinches of chopped lemon zest (all optional) used basil & nutmeg
½ oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated (about ¼ cup very lightly packed) used nutritional yeast
about ¼ teaspoon salt (a little more if using kosher salt)
all-purpose flour for forming the gnocchi
For the gnocchi sauce: didn’t use, used homemade spinach pesto & a store bought mushroom marinara
8 tablespoons (227 grams/¼ pound/4 oz) 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 & 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 & place the ricotta in the sieve. Cover it & let it drain for at least 8 hours & up to 24 hours in the refrigerator. Alternatively, you can wrap the ricotta carefully in cheesecloth (2 layers) & 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.
I skipped this step & made it all on the same day.
For the ricotta, I used the Basil Tofu Ricotta from Vegan With A Vengance. I highly recommend this recipe, it was great! I followed Shelly’s advice & added ¼ cup of vital wheat gluten to the tofu mixture, it really helped to hold it together.
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. (didn’t drain or press the tofu, just used super firm, as is)
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 & add it to the ricotta mixture. only used 1 tsp
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. used basil & nutmeg
Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano & the salt.
Beat all the ingredients together very well. You should end up with a soft & fluffy batter with no streaks (everything should be mixed in very well).
Step 3: Forming the gnocchi.
When forming the gnocchi using tofu, you don’t have to be gentle with it at all. You need to use a firm hand. I didn’t test one, just dropped them all in (I was hungry). I used a 1 TBSP cookie scoop, dropped into flour, & shaped.
Fill a small pot with water & bring to a boil. When it boils, salt the water generously & keep it at a simmer. You will use this water to test the first gnocchi that you make to ensure that it holds together & 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” deep.
With a spatula, scrape the ricotta mixture away from the sides of the bowl & form a large mass in the centre of your bowl.
Using a tablespoon, scoop up about 2 to 3 teaspoons of batter & 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 & 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 & plump.
Gently place your gnocchi in the simmering water. It will sink & 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 & 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 & 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 & water for the sauce in the skillet & 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.
To sauce the cooked gnocchi, I added the pesto to one small skillet & the marinara to another, then just dropped the drained gnocchi into the sauces & gently stirred. It is best to let it sit a bit, to let it firm up.
Place the skillet over medium heat & melt the butter. Swirl it gently a few times as it melts. As soon as it melts & 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 & 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 & 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 & freeze them. Once they are formed & 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 & seal the bag. Return to the freezer. To cook frozen gnocchi, remove them from the bag & place individually on a plate or on a tray. Place in the refrigerator to thaw completely. Cook as directed for fresh gnocchi.
Verdict: I was a little nervous about the texture. I have had things with vital wheat gluten in them before that hasn’t set up & the texture was awful!!! So, I was a little nervous, but I had nothing to worry about, it was great! I let it sit for about 15 minutes before we ate it. My hubby actually had 2 helpings, that is saying something. I liked the pesto better, hubby liked the marinara. Thanks to Ivonne & Lisa for this great challenge & to Shelly for all the great tips! I served this with a side salad & some baked pita chips.