Store-bought gnocchi is fine, but you deserve better. That’s where these soft, pillowy ricotta dumplings come in. I’ve paired them with a spring-inspired leek and pea sauce that’s bright and bursting with flavor thanks to garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and lemon juice.

When it comes to gnocchi, the potato version – originally from northern Italy – is what I’ve encountered the most. They are wonderful in their own right, but ricotta gnocchi are truly a thing of beauty, with their superior softness and quicker preparation. Potato gnocchi can become gummy if made poorly; ricotta gnocchi are much more forgiving and offer practically guaranteed success.

The ingredients for ricotta gnocchi are pretty standard: ricotta (obviously), egg, Parmesan, flour and salt. Ricotta being a very mild cheese, it needs the Parmesan and salt to make the pasta taste like something. I add in some lemon zest to brighten the gnocchi dough, give it even more oomph and mirror the citrus juice in the accompanying sauce.

Some gnocchi recipes call for a high-quality ricotta that is made from just milk, salt and perhaps an acid or culture, but I only saw the more mass produced cheese at my usual grocery store when developing this recipe. The difference is that the latter contains stabilizers to trap in water, making it futile and cumbersome to try to drain the cheese to get rid of excess moisture as a number of recipes instruct. So while I’m always an advocate for using the best ingredients you can get your hands on, know that this recipe is designed to work with the most widely accessible of ricottas.

To make the dough, just throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and mix them together until evenly combined. Then, borrowing a tip from the Kitchn, place the dough in the fridge for a quick nap so it becomes slightly easier to handle – just like me when I’m sleep deprived – before rolling and shaping the individual gnocco.

When you’re shaping, feel free to use as much flour as you need to keep it from sticking to your counter, and there’s no need to worry about overworking the dough and making it tough. Per J. Kenji López-Alt in Serious Eats, “Because of ricotta’s high protein and fat content, even with excess flour the dough will have trouble forming gluten, the protein network that can make dough tough to chew.” Once formed, just drop the gnocchi into a pot of salted boiling water and they’ll be done in no time. It should take just a couple minutes once they float to the surface for them to cook all the way through and transform from pasty blobs to ethereally plush little pasta pillows.

Though the thought of making pasta at home might be daunting to some, after testing this recipe a handful of times (to get it worthy of publication), I can assure you that you will be successful in the end, despite any doubts that might creep up along the way. There’s no need to be intimidated – you’ve got this.

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Ricotta Gnocchi with Leeks and Peas

45 minutes

4 servings

Making your own gnocchi might sound intimidating, but it’s more forgiving than you might think. These soft and pillowy ones are made from ricotta instead of potatoes and are studded with lemon zest for an extra burst of flavor. They’re paired with a spring-inspired leek and pea sauce that’s flavored with garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Shower with freshly grated Parmesan cheese before serving.

Make Ahead: Once formed, the raw gnocchi can be frozen on a sheet tray until solid and then transferred to another container and frozen for up to 2 months. The gnocchi can be cooked directly from frozen, adding a few minutes to the cooking time.

Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE GNOCCHI

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

One (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta

Generous 1/3 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1 large egg

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 1/4 cups (about 5 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

FOR THE LEEK-PEA SAUCE

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 leek (about 11 ounces), white and light green parts only, washed well and thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt

Ground black pepper

One (10-ounce) package frozen peas, defrosted (or 1 1/2 cups fresh)

1 cup unsalted or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

DIRECTIONS

Make the gnocchi: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the salt, ricotta, Parmesan, egg and lemon zest until evenly combined. Add about 1/3 of the flour and mix in, then repeat to add the rest in two more additions, forming the gnocchi dough. Refrigerate the dough, uncovered, for about 15 minutes. (Now would be a great time to prep the ingredients for the sauce.)

Lightly dust the counter with flour and turn out the dough. Dust the dough and your hands with flour. Divide the dough into eight even pieces and roll each into a log roughly 3/4-inch in diameter, adding more flour as needed to help keep it from sticking. (The dough can handle a decent amount of flour, so use as much as you need – within reason, of course. It’ll turn out just fine in the end.) Cut each log into approximately 1-inch-long gnocchi, transfer to the prepared baking sheet and dust lightly with flour to keep from sticking. (A bench scraper is great for cutting and transferring the gnocchi.) It’s OK if the gnocchi look a little misshapen – it adds rustic charm – but you can lightly flour your hands and reshape any that aren’t to your liking.

Make the leek-pea sauce: In a large, nonstick skillet, at least 12 inches wide, over medium heat, heat the oil and melt the butter until foaming. Add the leek, garlic and red pepper flakes, season lightly with salt and pepper and cook, stirring regularly, until the leek has softened, about 10 minutes.

Add the peas, broth and lemon juice and cook until the peas are tender and the liquid has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes.

Gently slide the gnocchi into the pot of boiling water, giving them a gentle stir to make sure they don’t stick together. Once they float to the top, let simmer until cooked all the way through, about 2 minutes. (Taste one to check doneness: If it’s dense and pasty in the middle, it’s not ready yet – it should be soft and smooth throughout.)

Using a spider or large slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to the pan with the leek-pea sauce, add the parsley and toss to combine; continue cooking for about 1 minute so everything comes together. Taste, and season with more salt and/or pepper as desired. Divide the gnocchi and sauce among the bowls, shower with the grated Parmesan and serve.

Nutrition | Calories: 581; Total Fat: 29 g; Saturated Fat: 14 g; Cholesterol: 119 mg; Sodium: 540 mg; Carbohydrates: 54 g; Dietary Fiber: 6 g; Sugar: 7 g; Protein: 24 g.

Recipe from Aaron Hutcherson.


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