I had one of those days today. A day where I needed to supervise my wife as she needed some long awaited dental work. Not a cavity filling, but more on the surgery side. As it was a challenging day of managing a heavily drugged wife, and a ever so demanding three year old, I found a way to make us all calm down and come to peace.
After hearing the doctor basically state that my wife had to eat soft food for up to four days, I immediately lost track of them telling me how she is going to feel, what she is going to need for pain, and other expectations. I had soft food on my mind! I know it sounds selfish of me, especially after sitting in an overheated waiting room for over two hours with my three year old being as carefree as most three year olds are (dancing, singing, needing to run, and arguing about candy), but I found comfort in hearing things about food. So soft food. I really thought that we could leave the office and get a Kopp’s cheeseburger as it was right next door, but I couldn’t do that to my wife who walked out of the place, feeling really intoxicated, literally laughing, and her ‘dead weight’ hanging on my should, knees wobbling. As entertaining as it was, I felt really sorry for her, and wanted to give her something really comforting when she awoke from her painful and drunken sleep.
Sure, I could have quickly whipped up some really killer mashed potatoes, or some nice matzo ball soup, but I have really had dumplings on my mind. I have actually been thinking of pierogi for some time, but as I know my wife loves Italian food, I immediately thought of gnocchi. Sure, I immediately thought of potato gnocchi, but that quickly got pushed aside when I skimmed the refrigerator and found Ricotta cheese. I already had my herbs and other basic ingredients, so I was ready to go. As my wife slept, I quickly moved on making a great dish for a wonderful person. Later tonight, she stated how great the dish was, and I was actually thinking she wanted more. She will have to wait, as more are in the freezer.
Enough said. Let’s get started.
- 1 16 oz whole-milk ricotta, drained
- 3 slices of regular white bread, crusts removed
- 1 large egg
- 2 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
- 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup of parmesan reggiano, grated
Creamy Tomato Sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 14 oz of diced tomatoes, puree in blender
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
- 2 tbsp heavy cream
The goal is to get as much moister out of the ricotta cheese as possible. You do this by placing in a mesh strainer, and line it with a coffee filter if you have it. Cover the cheese, place in the refrigerator, and let this rest and drain for about 45 minutes. During this time, feel free to prep your basil, parsley, puree the tomatoes, and get your breadcrumbs made.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. Place the three slices of bread onto a baking sheet, and place in the oven for about 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown. Remove from the tray, and let cool before pulsing these down in a food processor, or, placing in a bag, and mashing them into fine crumbs. Your call, depending on how you are feeling during this time.
Get a large bowl out, and remove the ricotta cheese from the strainer, placing it in the bowl. Add in the egg, salt, pepper, parsley, and basil, and combine to get a smooth mix. Add in the breadcrumbs, parmesan cheese, and flour. Combine to make a nice dough. Keep in mind, due to the creaminess of the cheese, the dough is a bit soft, not too firm. If it is too sticky, add in a bit more flour, a tablespoon at a time.
I found that six tablespoons is just the right amount. You can test this out by forming into a small ball, and make sure it does not stick too severely to your hands. Cover the dough and place in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes. This stiffens the dough a bit and will help you with the next process.
During this time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. At the same time, get your larger, 12 inch skillet out, and get your sauce moving along. Multitasking. Got to love it.
Once your water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, a simmer, as you don’t want to kill your gnocchi, meaning you don’t want them to disintegrate, or fall apart on you.
To make the sauce, bring your skillet up to medium heat. Add in your olive oil. Toss in your garlic, and cook for about a minute, being careful not to burn. Add in the tomato puree, the salt, sugar, and pepper. Mix well, then add in your basil and cream, mixing again. Cover and remove from the heat.
Now, gnocchi rolling time. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Grab a small chunk, and roll into a the size of a lime. Get a working surface ready, and some more flour. Sprinkle your board with a bit of flour, and heck, get your hands ready as well. Put the ball on the surface, and roll it out into a log, not too thin though, about 3/4 inch. Once it is roped out, get a knife and cut about a 3/4 inch pieces. Continue this process with your remaining dough.
Now this recipe probably makes about 60-75 gnocchi, so if you are only serving a couple, you can place your remaining items on a sheet, place in the freezer to harden, then place in a ziplock bag, and bag in the freezer.
To cook, place the gnocchi into the simmering water. They drop to the bottom, then in about 30 seconds, they begin to float to the top. Remember now, that you are dealing with some fragile ingredients, basically soft cheese and flour, meaning, it doesn’t take long at all to cook. Once they pop to the top, cook for about 2 more minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the skillet of warm and wonderful tomato and cream sauce. Give the skillet a nice shake to cover the gnocchi and plate up, or continue to cook your remaining gnocchi, repeating the process and go family style.
Enjoy. Truly comforting, and truly easy to make.