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Dinners

Ricotta Gnocchi for Junior Chefs

Dec 13, 2012

This week's recipe is Ricotta Gnocchi (pdf or scroll for photos and steps). However, before I get into how you and the kids can make it together, I'd like to refer back to my introductory blog post, where I explained my philosophy on food: keep it real, as in real food, real ingredients. In that post, I believe I suggested that my recipes were wholesome and healthy, then I proceeded with a recipe for chocolate truffles. Chocolate and cream. (Really, Cheffer? Healthy?? Come on!) But I can explain ...I stand by my statement, and I stand by the use of the terms "healthy" and "wholesome." I consider whole foods, real foods, to be healthy. And yes, these foods may include sugar, chocolate and good old 35% whipping cream. (I may as well break it to you now: flour, butter and lard - yes lard! - are also on this list of mine.) I consider them healthy because they are real. Our bodies know what they are and know what to do with them. I consider them healthy when they're used in moderation, and with care. I want my kids to have a well-adjusted relationship with sugar, carbs and fats. I don't want my kids to fear and avoid them; I want my kids to respect and limit them. A little bit at a time of most things is just fine. For example: water, lemon, sugar = healthy lemonade. Water, glucose/fructose, citric acid, potassium citrate, potassium benzoate, acacia gum, sucrose, isobutyrate, EDTA, modified coconut oil and tartrazine = not-so-healthy lemonade. Make sense? Real food.

Speaking of real and wholesome, here's my Ricotta Gnocchi. Food guru James Chatto called my gnocchi "ethereally light," and my description "eloquent." Now, I'm not one to brag and namedrop, but when James Chatto compliments your gnocchi and diction, you brag and namedrop! This recipe is very kid friendly, with regards to both making and eating, and I give it a two out of five on the mess factor; it would be a whopping four but most of the mess is flour ... easy to dust up. This recipe uses very few and very real ingredients, and the dough, once mixed, resembles playdough, which needs to be rolled. It's fun for the whole family!

Many people shy away from gnocchi, envisioning a heavy, doughy potato ball. The ricotta in my recipe keeps these little gnocchi numbers light and fluffy ‬- "ethereal" if you will.

You'll need ...

  • 400 grams ricotta
  • 1 large baking (russet) potato - baked, peeled and mashed 100 grams all-purpose flour
  • 75 grams Parmesan cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks (use your hands to separate them)
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch salt
  • pinch pepper

1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, and mix well with a wooden spoon.

2. Sprinkle a very generous coating of flour onto a large cutting board or clean counter (this will be a big contributor to that "mess factor" I mentioned earlier).

3. A handful at a time, transfer the dough to your work surface. Work (knead) the dough for 30 seconds or so, and begin to roll it into a log about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Add a little more flour if you need - the dough may be a little sticky.

4. If the kids haven't bugged you to go and watch TV by this point, have them continue rolling logs ...

... while you (on a different board or work surface!) begin to cut the gnocchi into 3/4 inch "pillows."

5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

6. Cook the gnocchi in batches (about 1/4 of the total batch at a time) for about 4 minutes. 

7. Remove the gnocchi from the pot with a slotted/perforated spoon or a "spider" (you might want to Google that one), and toss with your favourite sauce.

8. If you're eating the gnocchi later, transfer it from the boiling pot to a cold water bath until chilled, then strain, lightly toss in olive oil, and refrigerate until you are ready to eat.

Cheffer's Inside Scoop

  • For an even lighter gnocchi, you can omit the potato and one of the egg yolks, and this recipe will work just fine. But beware: purists won't let you call them gnocchi if they're made without potato. My thoughts are that if you make it, you can call it whatever you want!
  • The ricotta allows you to work this dough a little more than traditional gnocchi without it becoming dense, or less "ethereal" to again quote James Chatto.
  • Regular ricotta in a tub from the grocery store is fine, but I like to use a firmer, denser ricotta, which is often found in the deli counter of most grocery stores. It will lead to a drier, easier to work with, dough.

Patrick Engel has been cooking professionally for 15 years. After graduating from George Brown College in Toronto, and training in the kitchens of Rodney's Oyster House and Bymark Restaurant, Patrick relocated to Niagara's wine region, working at Inn on the Twenty, followed by six years as resident chef instructor at The Good Earth Cooking School. Patrick is currently the chef at Hospice Niagara's Stabler Centre and associate chef at The Garrison House in Niagara-on-the Lake. Patrick lives in St. Catharines, Ontario, with his wife, Marnie, and their two boys, Charlie (7) and Johnny (5).

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