Soft, Tender & Rich with Ricotta
By Jenn Louis
In the fall, I dress these gnocchetti with sautéed squash and sage brown butter. In the winter, I serve them with a meat ragù. In the summer, it must be pesto!
Recipe from Jenn Louis’ Pasta By Hand. Order your copy here.
Jenn Louis’ Ricotta Gnocchetti
- 480g / 2 cups whole milk ricotta cheese, homemade or store-bought
- 25g / 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
- Freshly grated nutmeg
- 125g / 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Semolina flour for dusting
- Sauce of your choice
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 ounces (85g) pancetta or prosciutto, finely chopped
- 2 1/4 pound (1 KG) ground beef brisket
- 1 yellow onion, cut into medium dice
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup tomato paste
- 3/4 cup red wine
- 2 1/2 quart (2.7 L) chicken stock, plus more as needed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter for serving
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, egg, melted butter, and a few swipes of nutmeg. Add the all-purpose flour and mix with your hands just until combined. The dough should be slightly sticky and wet. Do not overmix, as this will make the gnocchetti tough.
Dust 30g / 1/4 cup all-purpose flour on the work surface, then scrape the dough from the bowl directly on top of the flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with an additional 30g / 1/4 cup all-purpose flour. This will help prevent the dough from being too sticky to roll.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and dust with semolina flour. Cut off a chunk of dough, about 25g / 1/4 cup, and cover the rest with plastic wrap. On a work surface lightly dusted with all-purpose flour, use your hands to roll the chunk into a log about 1/4 inch (6 mm) in diameter. Cut the log into 1/2-inch (12-mm) pieces. Put the gnocchetti on the prepared baking sheets and shape the remaining dough. Make sure that the gnocchetti don’t touch or they will stick together.
(To store, refrigerate on the baking sheets, covered with plastic wrap, for up to 2 days, or freeze on the baking sheets and transfer to an airtight container. Use within 1 month. Do not thaw before cooking.)
Bring a large pot filled with generously salted water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Add the gnocchetti and simmer until they float to the surface, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and finish with your choice of sauce. Serve right away.
This hearty sauce is deeply savory and intense. The richness and complexity of the slowly cooked beef brisket and tomato paste complement the rustic dumplings and showcase the true craft that goes into Italian home cooking. Ground lamb shoulder or beef chuck can be substituted for the brisket— just check the meat as it cooks, because different cuts will cook at different rates. When the meat is finished cooking, it will be completely separated from the fat and full of rich, concentrated flavor.
Makes 6 cups (1.4 L)
In a large pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta and beef brisket and cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked and browned bits stick to the bottom of the pot, 8 to 10 minutes. If the drippings on the bottom of the pot become too dark or look like they will burn, lower the heat.
With a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a bowl, leaving about 3 tablespoons fat in the pot and discarding any excess. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, and red pepper flakes and sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent but not brown, about 4 minutes. The moisture from the onion will help deglaze the pan (dislodge the browned bits).
Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato caramelizes (it will begin to stick to the bottom of the pan and turn dark red), 4 to 6 minutes. If the tomato paste gets too dark, lower the heat. Add the wine, raise the heat to medium-high, and bring to a simmer. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot and simmer until the wine has almost completely evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer. Return the meat to the pot, turn the heat to medium-low, and simmer gently—the liquid should bubble lazily—until the meat has become tender and the sauce has gradually reduced and become rich. Be patient; this will take about 3 hours. Be careful not to let the sauce boil. If the sauce becomes too thick, add up to 1/2 cup (120 ml) additional chicken stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper and discard the bay leaves.
(To store, transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight or until fully thawed.)
To finish the dumplings with the ragù, for each serving, warm about 1/2 cup (120 ml) of ragù in a sauté pan over medium heat and add 1 1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon butter per serving, depending on how naughty you feel. Gently simmer about 4 minutes, until the bubbles get large and the sauce is not watery along the edges of the pan. Add the cooked dumplings and simmer for 1 minute to let the dumplings absorb the flavor of the sauce. Top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and season with salt and pepper. Serve right away.