Ricotta gnocchi is one of my favorite types of homemade pastas to make. It’s much simpler (and more foolproof) than it seems. You start by making the dough (which is somewhat in between a batter and a dough because of its looser texture) with drained ricotta, eggs, cheese, and flour. The key to making a pillowy gnocchi is to add just enough flour until the batter holds its shape. The batter is cut into sections, then each section is rolled into a long rope and cut into chunks. The finished gnocchi are boiled for just a couple of minutes until they float to the surface.
What is ricotta gnocchi al limone?
The sauce is a lemon butter cheese sauce, also known as al limone. It’s one of my go-to sauces for pastas like spaghetti, and also this gnocchi recipe. It’s buttery, salty, and just tart enough from the lemon. The butter, cheese, lemon, and pasta water combine to form a creamy sauce that clings to the gnocchi. The inspiration for this dish comes from ndunderi (a type of ricotta gnocchi) from the Amalfi coast of Italy. Some versions of ndunderi add lemon zest to the batter, so I thought why not make a lemon sauce to go with it?
How do I lighten up the sauce?
If you’re looking for a lighter sauce, you can omit the cheese and do a simpler butter lemon sauce. Or, substitute the sauce with a tomato sauce, like the one I have here. All combinations are equally as delicious.
What kind of ricotta should I buy?
- Look for ricotta cheese products with minimal ingredients (ricotta, vinegar, salt), such as Calabro brand.
- Lower quality ricotta has additional stabilizers that make it difficult to drain the water out. More watery ricotta leads to using more flour in the dough, creating denser gnocchi.
- You will notice that the recipe has a range of amounts for particular ingredients — this is because different brands of ricotta have different amounts of moisture and texture. We’ll use visual and tactile cues to get the dough to the right consistency.
- You can also use homemade ricotta!
Ricotta Gnocchi Al Limone Recipe
For the ricotta gnocchi
- 12 ounces high-quality
whole milk ricotta cheese , about 1 1/2 cups
- 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- 1/3 cup tightly packed grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, ~1 ounce
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Salt and pepper
- Up to 1 cup of all-purpose flour, plus 1/4 cup for sprinkling on your work surface
For the sauce (al limone)
- 4 tablespoons butter
- Juice and zest from 1 lemon, divided
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning at the end
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese, about 1 1/2 oz, plus more for garnish
- A handful of minced parsley, for garnish
For the ricotta gnocchi
- First, you'll need to drain the ricotta. You can either use paper towels or a cheesecloth to do so.
- For paper towels, start by stacking two paper towels on top of a plate. Add the ricotta, then spread out with a spatula evenly across the paper towel layer. Place another paper towel on top, then press down with your hands to allow the paper towel to begin absorbing excess moisture. Let sit for 10 minutes, then remove the top paper towel and place the drained ricotta into a medium mixing bowl.
- If using a cheesecloth, lay out the cheesecloth and add the ricotta in one mass into the center of the cheesecloth on top of a plate. Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and bunch them together, forming a pouch. Squeeze the cheesecloth over the kitchen sink, draining any excess liquid. Place the drained ricotta into a medium mixing bowl.
- Next, we'll make the batter for the gnocchi. Into the mixing bowl, add 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, cheese, and zest, and mix together until thoroughly combined, mashing with your hands if necessary.
- Season the batter with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.
- Add a bit of flour at a time, until the dough just comes together. It will feel moist, tacky and just barely sticky, but should not be sticking to your hands. You may not need the full 1 cup (I typically use about 2/3 cup to 3/4 cup)
- On a cutting board or work surface, set aside 1/4 cup of flour. Generously sprinkle the work surface with a bit of flour. Place the ricotta dough on top of the flour and shape into a rough square.
- Add another generous sprinkle of flour on top of the dough. Cut into 4 sections.
- Roll each section into a long rope about 1/2-inch thick, then cut into 2/3-inch pieces. Place each piece on a floured baking sheet until ready to cook.
For the sauce (al limone)
- Set a large pot of water on the stove to a boil.
- Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet or dutch oven over medium low heat, being careful to not burn it.
- Add half of the lemon juice, zest, and black pepper and stir in the skillet to prevent from burning, about 1 – 2 minutes. At this point, the black pepper should be slightly toasted and aromatic, and lemon juice will have slightly reduced. Keep the heat on low once reduced.
- Once the pot of water has come to a boil, add the gnocchi. Once they float to the surface, let boil for another 30 seconds (in total, they should take about 1 to 3 minutes to cook). Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and transfer to the skillet, reserving about 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Add 1/4 cup of the pasta water to the skillet and increase heat to medium. Slowly add a couple spoonfuls of the cheese at a time, stirring constantly until the sauce beings to emulsify and looks creamy (similar to how a cacio e pepe sauce comes together). Add any additional pasta water if the sauce is too thick. Let the sauce reduce for a couple of minutes until it clings to the gnocchi.
- Taste the sauce, and add the additional reserved lemon juice if you want it more tart. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.