Adulthood means something different to everyone: taking vacations where the objective is to do nothing, paying bills, rewatching Steel Magnolias for the nine-hundredth time this week because you want to practice Sally Fields’ speech, paying bills, instagramming slightly oblique pictures with pseudo-intellectual captions, and paying more bills.
Sadly, what adulthood means to me is not building a pillow fort and laying on said fort until my body merges with the pillows and all my problems disappear forever. Oh, how I wish it were. I mean, I know I could try that, but I’m pretty sure I would never get up to fulfill my adult obligations of paying bills and screeching “I WANNA KNOW WHY!” at the top of my lungs. Instead, when I need something incredibly soft, cushy, and comforting, I make a batch of these ricotta gnocchi. They are delicate and moist, and—in their own gentle way—hold a variety of sauces. For this particular recipe, however, I used vodka because I was feeling (ahem) particularly adult.
The song “We Go Together” must have been written about this pairing because it is that classic. I don’t have any empirical evidence to support this claim, not even a passing lyric about pillowy gnocchi, but trust me on this one. You can also adjust the heat and the cream level to personal taste. I’m sure many would insist that the sauce needs to be pinker, and perhaps they have a song choice to back them up, but I’ve elected to play the cream game more conservatively . . . because being an adult means you have your cholesterol to consider (hi, mom!).
You can top this dish with a protein of your choice; serve it as a side; or simply pile it all in a bowl, stack the pillows on the floor, and dig in for a Ghostbusters mini-marathon (you probably thought I was going to say Steely Mags, huh. I have range). No matter how you serve it, it’s sure to take you to a place free of obligations and into a world of softness and flavor.
- 1 pound quality, full fat ricotta cheese, drained
- ⅓ cup grated parmesan cheese
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finally minced (I used parsley, oregano and thyme)
- 1 cup flour, plus extra for rolling
- To drain the ricotta, place a cheesecloth over a fine mesh sieve, place over a bowl, and rest the ricotta in the cheesecloth. Let it drain in the refrigerator for at least an hour; a few is better.
- Once the ricotta is drained, place in a large bowl. Add the parmesan, egg, and herbs and mix well.
- At this point, work delicately to ensure you don’t overwork the gnocchi. Add half a cup of flour and gently incorporate. Add the other half cup and repeat. If the dough is still sticky and not formable, add an additional scant quarter cup. Once the dough forms, turn it onto a floured work surface and knead gently but a few times.
- Divide the dough into four equal lengths. Take the first length and roll into a long tube. Using a knife, cut the tube into one inch pieces and place on slightly floured parchment to prevent sticking. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough. If not cooking immediately, refrigerate.
- Once ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the gnocchi in batches, depending on pot size. It usually takes me 4-5 batches to cook them all. Don’t overcrowd. When the gnocchi begin floating to the top, they are done. Remove with a slotted spoon. Once cooked, mix with sauce and serve immediately.
Tips: The less flour you have to add, the lighter the ricotta will be, so this is why you add in small portions. If you’re nervous about how the gnocchi will hold up, bring some water to boil while making the dough, and once you cut the first gnocchi, test it in the boiling water. If it falls apart, you may need more flour. If it floats to the top after a minute or two of cooking, voila! You’ve done it!
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 4 tablespoons of fresh julienned basil, divided
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup vodka
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- ¾ cup chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 1 cup heavy cream
- In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
- Add the onion and sauté for 3-5 minutes, until soft.
- Add the garlic and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the vodka, and cook until it has reduced by at least half.
- Add the tomato paste and mix well.
- Add the crushed tomatoes, salt, crushed red pepper, 2 tablespoons of the basil, and chicken stock, and bring to a boil.
- Turn the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes. If you are making this for the gnocchi, this is a great point to start forming the dough.
- Five minutes before serving, add the cream and the rest of the basil, and possibly more salt if needed. Stir ingredients in and turn off the heat, but keep the pan on the stove so that it stays hot.
- Serve with gnocchi or pasta of your choice.