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X Italian Pasta Dishes
ricotta gnocchi
Ricotta Gnocchi in Red Sauce
Originated from: Italy
Occasion: Any time of the year
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her sister's recipe)

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For the gnocchi dough:

1 container of ricotta (454 g)
2 cups flour
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the red sauce:

3 pounds fresh ripe tomatoes (about 10 large tomatoes)
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste (optional)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)

A large pot of water for cooking gnocchi
about 1 tablespoon of salt to add to the pot of water

For topping:

1/2 cup Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella (optional)
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil


To make the gnocchi dough:

1. Beat egg.

2. Place 2 cups of flour in a large bowl.

3. Add salt and mix.

4. Add ricotta and mix.

5. Add egg and work into a soft dough -- about three to four minutes of kneading (by hand).

6. Divide dough into two portions.

7. Place balls of dough in two separate bowls. Cover with clear plastic and place in refrigerator.

8. Let the dough rest for one to two hours.

9. On a floured wooden board roll out one of the gnocchi dough balls to thickness of about 1/4 inch (or a touch more depending on one's personal preference).

10. Cut strips of dough about 3/4 inch wide and 10 inches long (actually the length of the pasta strip does not matter).

11. Cut the strips of dough into small sticks about 3/4 inch wide and 1/4 inch long (They look a bit like cavetelli strips except they're thicker and a touch shorter).

12A. Version 1: Pinch each strip with a fork to make decorative dents.

12B. Version II: Pass each strip of dough on a floured gnocchi board. Then using your two fingers (those closest to the thumb) press on the dough and roll it towards you, so that two tiny shell-like indentations are made on the pasta strips. Keep doing this until all the pasta strips are shaped.

13A. Version I: Let the gnocchi air dry for about 10 minutes before cooking in boiling water.

13B. Version II: Place the gnocchi on a cookie sheet (one that will fit inside the freezer) and spread the gnocchi out. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. When the gnocchi are completely frozen (wait at least two hours), then put them in a strainer, and strain out any excess flour still clinging to the pasta (The less excess flour you have on the gnocchi, the easier it will be for them to cook later on in the boiling water.). Place the frozen gnocchi in a plastic bag (Now that they are nicely frozen they will not stick to each other) and put them back in the freezer. When needed, take the gnocchi out of the freezer and cook them in a large pot of boiling water.

To make the sauce:

1. Peel and chop the garlic.

2. Chop the basil.

3. Skin, and remove seeds from tomatoes.

4. Dice the tomatoes (The pieces should be as small as possible).

5. Heat up the oil in a cooking pan.

6. Saute the garlic.

7. Add the tomatoes. Mix in tomato paste (if using).

8. Add salt, pepper, sugar (if using) and basil.

9. Over medium heat, cook the tomatoes for about 20 minutes.

To prepare the gnocchi in red sauce:

1. Bring a large pot of water to boil.

2. Cook the gnocchi in rapidly boiling salted water for about about 2 to 3 minutes, noting, that if the gnocchi are frozen they will take longer a touch longer to cook (Technically the gnocchi can be removed once they rise to the surface, but most cooks want to make sure the egg in the gnocchi pasta dough is sufficiently cooked before taking them out).

3. Drain well.

4. Place the gnocchi in a large bowl. Toss with half the sauce. Mix well.

5. Place the gnocchi in individual plates and top with more sauce. Garnish with Parmesan cheese, shredded mozzarella (if using) and chopped fresh basil.

6. Serve warm.


Any favorite tomato sauce can be used for this recipe. If the gnocchi come out well, they'll make a wonderful meal (There is no reason why the gnocchi shouldn't come out well, as this recipe is easy to do.). Unlike store-bought frozen ravioli which are generally quite good, store-bought gnocchi are simply not good enough (in my opinion). Store-bought gnocchi may look good, but they're generally tasteless, and don't have much nutritional value. Home-made ricotta gnocchi are not only good for you, they actually please the pallet like nothing else can. Photo: Mary Melfi.

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