This month welcomes the birth of the Daring Cooks group. Linked with Daring Bakers, Daring Cooks is very much the same premise, but everyone cooks a specific meal rather than baking (which usually focuses on dessert). The selection this month was ricotto gnocchi, from Judy Rodgers' cookbook, The Zuni Café Cookbook. It didn't turn out quite as photographic as I had hoped, but it offered itself as a pleasantly light and delicious meal.
There's a nice Italian restaurant not too far from my house, and I've often ordered their gnocchi with pesto sauce. It's such a wonderful combination that I decided I'd try it out on my own. This gnocchi is different from the standard sort (using potatoes is standard, from what I've seen at least) in that it uses ricotta as the base, but I still figured the pairing would go well together. As far as the process went of actually cooking the formed gnocchi, I found that letting the gnocchi sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours really helped them hold their form. I was having trouble with them breaking apart, even after adding extra eggs and letting it sit for an hour or so in the refrigerator.
16 ounces fresh ricotta cheese
2 large cold eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 heavy pinch of ground nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Flour to form the gnocchi
At least a day before you want to cook the gnocchi, place the ricotta cheese over a cheesecloth, placed into a wire mesh sieve, suspended over a bowl to catch the moisture. This will drain off a lot of the excess water that's held inside the cheese. If you skip this step, your gnocchi will fall apart easily while cooking. Once the water has been wicked away (about 24 hours in the refrigerator), place into a food processor and pulse a few times until smooth. Add the eggs, butter, nutmeg, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt. Pulse until everything is combined and smooth. Fill a shallow bowl with flour, and drop 2-3 teaspoons of batter into it at a time. Very gently roll it and shape it until it has an even coating of flour, then drop into a boiling pot of water. Once the gnocchi begins to float, boil for an additional 5 minutes, then gently remove from the water bath and set aside to cool. Do a practice gnocchi first, then if it holds up to the strain of boiling and removal, continue to cook gnocchi 5-6 at a time, such that the pot doesn't become overcrowded. If the gnocchi falls apart, try to add an extra egg white or allow the batter to firm up in the refrigerator. Once gnocchi are cooked, while still hot, serve with sauce of your choice.
Basic pesto sauce:
4 cups Italian (sweet) basil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
1/3 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
In a food processor, process the basil until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides as needed. Add the olive oil, pine nuts, garlic cloves, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and salt. Pulse until sauce comes together - it will be thick. Serve on top of the hot ricotto gnocchi.
I ended up keeping a lot of this for myself, but I was able to share a bit of it with a couple people, and the reviews were actually better than I had expected. I thought that I may have over-done it with the amount of Parmigiano-Reggiano, being in both the gnocchi and in the sauce, but it seems that it was a much-welcomed flavor. This first daring cooks challenge was interesting, and I'm looking forward for more to come.