Oct. 18, 2011: Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomato Sauce
In their customary potato-based makeup, gnocchi amount to a dish of heft and substance. These ones however are made of ricotta, bound with only a modicum of flour, so they are feather-light. Paired with this lightly cooked tomato sauce, they make a perfect summer dish.
- 2 lb (1 kg) ricotta cheese (preferably buffalo)
- 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
- 2/3 cup (150 mL) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1/2 tbsp (7 mL) kosher salt
- 1/4 tsp (1 mL) black pepper
- Grated zest of half a lemon
- 1 batch Heirloom Tomato Sauce (see recipe below)
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) butter, preferably whipped
- 1 top-quality burrata cheese (about 8 oz/250 g)
- 2 Tbsp (30 mL) fine olive oil
- 12 basil leaves, torn
Rinse a sheet of cheesecloth under cold running water, squeeze it dry, and line a large strainer with it. Place the strainer over a bowl, add the ricotta, cover, and refrigerate overnight. The next day, discard the drained liquid, wipe the bowl dry, and tip in the thickened ricotta. Press down on the centre of the mound to form a well. Add the egg and egg yolk. Gently mix the egg into the ricotta with your hands, lifting the mixture and then letting it tumble between your fingers so that it is aerated by the process. Sift the flour over the mixture, then add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest. Gently mix together as before. The dough should be tacky to the touch. If it feels wet and sticky, incorporate a little more flour.
Flour a work surface and then, working in batches of about a handful at a time, roll the dough into a log about 3/4 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Flour a knife and trim the end of the log at an angle. Maintaining that angle, cut the roll into equal pieces about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil. Add the gnocchi and stir very gently to prevent them from sticking. As they float to the surface -- after about two minutes -- remove them with a slotted spoon to a lightly oiled baking sheet to cool.
In a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat bring the tomato sauce to a simmer. Add the cooled gnocchi and stir very gently to cover them with the sauce. When the gnocchi are heated through, taste and correct seasonings. Gently stir in the butter. Divide the gnocchi and sauce among warm plates or pasta bowls. Working over a plate, tear the burrata cheese into bite-sized pieces and then divide them -- along with the leaked cream -- among the servings. Garnish each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and a scattering of basil.
Substitutions: Clumps of fresh burrata melting on contact with hot tomato sauce makes for a special experience. If you are unable to locate one of unimpeachable freshness, 1 cup (250 mL) of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano makes an eminently suitable substitute.
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course.
Heirloom Tomato Sauce
- 3 lb (1.5 kg) heirloom tomatoes, very ripe but never mealy
- 3 Tbsp (50 mL) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) minced onion
- 1 tsp (5 mL) minced garlic
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) white wine
- 2 cups (500 mL) basil leaves, torn
- Salt and pepper
Blanch the tomatoes for 60 seconds, shock them in ice water, and then peel. Quarter them, then remove and discard their cores and seeds. Set aside. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sweat the onion in the olive oil until it becomes translucent. Add the garlic, and a minute later deglaze with the white wine. When the wine is reduced to virtually nothing add the tomatoes. Simmer for no more than seven minutes, breaking their flesh apart with a wooden spoon as they cook. Add the basil and season lightly.
Makes about 3 cups (750 mL).