Pasta, Pizza, Risotto, Vegetarian

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce

Nicoletta October 27, 2017

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce. Soft, pillowy ricotta gnocchi with the unmistakable color and flavor of the beetroot, in a creamy-dreamy brown butter gorgonzola sauce.

Song of the day: Dreamers by The Royal Foundry.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

You might think that just because I’m Italian I’m a ‘pro’ at making potato gnocchi. Far from it. My nonna and my mother have always been the ones who could turn simple ingredients like potatoes and flour into awesome gnocchi. Me, never had the drive. Other than helping them, I did not feel like making something they could make so well. In fact, making gnocchi might seem like an easy task, but I assure you, it is easier to make them wrong than right.

 

 

What I’ve learned from my mother and grandmathe only ingredients required to make potato gnocchi are potatoes and flour (and a pinch of salt). No eggs allowed. The eternal dilemma of adding or not an ingredient is typical of some classic Italian dishes and their Region of origin. Like “onions: yes or no” in the Matriciana, this “egg: yes or no” can cause heated debates among grandmas and moms throughout Italy. My mom, and my nonna before her, swears that with the addition of the egg the gnocchi become slimier, harder, chewier, and with an egg-flavor that has nothing to do with the ‘real’ gnocchi flavor. I like my mom’s gnocchi, they are light and tender and taste like a soft pillow made of potatoes, but I’ve eaten so many dense and heavy ones, or mushy and grainy, and for this reason, I’ve never attempted making my own classic potato gnocchi. One day I’ll do, with the help of Loreto.

For now, I prefer to stick to what I know and make awesome ricotta gnocchi, like Basil Ricotta Gnudi here, or these Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi, and I’m using my mother’s advice not to add an egg to the ingredients.

Ingredients that start with beautiful, homegrown, beets, from my in-laws garden. And you can’t get any more organic than that in our book. That harvest mid-October Sunday we had so much fun pulling out carrots and beets from the ground! At the end, we were tired, with sore hands, legs, knees, and backs, but happy. The crop had been fantastic!

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi-the harvest

Other than beets, the other ingredients to make beetroot ricotta gnocchi are:

  • ricotta, one of my favorite cheeses to eat and to use in cooking and baking;
  • Parmigiano, another staple in our fridge;
  • lemon zest, just a touch but it uplifts all the flavors so nicely;
  • type 00 flour (or all-purpose), and here I’d like to digress a bit from the main topic.

If you are Italian you know, and if you are not you might have read it in one of my posts, when it comes to adding flour, or salt/sugar to a recipe, the Italian moms and grandmas are very vague on the amount. If you ever have the possibility to read an Italian mom’s handwritten recipe book, you will find, more often than not, the sentence “farina quanta se ne prende“, that translates into “flour, as it takes”, or the letters q.b. after the mention of salt and sugar, that stands for “quanto basta” that is, “just enough”. That might make you mad, and it did also for me, at first, when trying to recreate some of my mother’s recipe, not knowing from the beginning the exact amount. How much is just enough? How much flour does it take? How am I supposed to know if I put too much or too little?

Trust me, you know. Cooking and baking are also sensorial experiences. All the senses play an important role when choosing the ingredients (think of when you’re at the Farmers markets and you touch or smell fruits and vegetables to feel their ripeness); or when peeling/cutting/chopping/slicing; and especially when you’re hand working homemade dough, both sweet and savory, when no written recipe can tell you what you need to feel with your hands.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce. Let’s get into the preparation!

After you’ve washed, peeled and boiled the beets (we chose smaller ones for a faster cooking and a sweeter/less earthy flavor), you can puree them in a food processor or use a ricer. We opted for the food processor which produced a kind of a grainy texture, which was perfect for what we wanted to achieve in the gnocchi.

In a small bowl, you work the ricotta with the Parmigiano, a pinch of salt, and the grated lemon zest. I love the smell of the freshly grated lemon zest, so enlivening! Then you add the pureed beets and you create a beautiful, vivid fuchsia color. Transfer the mixture on a wood work surface dusted with flour and this is the point where you add the flour a little at a time. I gave you an approximate amount but I would strongly recommend “feeling” (yes, like my mom would say) if the dough has reached the right consistency. A consistency that has to be workable but still remains a bit sticky (not too much) and light.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

We suggest to let the dough rest in the fridge for just 15 minutes, it helps with the texture and consistency. Shaping pieces of dough into long rolls, then cutting and forming the gnocchi, takes me back to all the times I helped my mamma and nonna make gnocchi. Only this time it was Loreto and I, in our kitchen in Canada, trying to recreate an Italian dish to keep it alive. Loreto rolled the dough and cut it into dumplings, I had the task to form the ridged gnocchi using a small wooden board I purchased at Eataly in Rome. If you do not have it, no fuss! You have few options and they’re all good: make round gnocchi shaping pieces of dough in between your hands; cut them like we did and leave it like that; use a fork to create the ridges, or use your finger to create a small indentation in the dumpling.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

As with the dried pasta, the ridges create a textural element. That means that the sauce, any kind, sticks to those ridges and coats the pasta better than on a smooth surface.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

The gnocchi you created, in every shape or texture, can be laid on a floured baking sheet and you can dust some more flour on top. When it’s time to cook them, have a pot of salted water on a boil, be gentle as you try to dust some of the flour off while adding them to the pot in batches paying attention not to splash yourself with hot water. Gnocchi (as most of the homemade pasta), do not take long to cook. My mother would say “when they come to the surface, allow one more minute, and they’re ready to scoop out”. Do not drain them like you would do with dried pasta, they are delicate and they require a slotted spoon (better plastic than metal, but my mother in Italy has a hand-woven willow pasta drainer that she uses specifically for homemade pasta).

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

You can make the sauce as the gnocchi are cooking. It is pretty easy and fast. Butter, sage, gorgonzola and Parmigiano slowly melt in a fairly big non-stick pan where you are going to add the gnocchi with a touch of the cooking water to keep the gnocchi moist and the sauce creamy.

Now for the best part: tasting! The first thing that captivates you is the texture, an incredibly light beetroot ricotta gnocchi, filled with plenty of little air pockets that help this morsel break apart in your mouth. There is a beautiful dance of flavors that happens between the creamy smoky buttery sauce and the subtle earthy richness of the beetroot. I love the way a crispy shard of fried sage comes in to play to give just a bit of spice to the mix.

Unlike our parents, who have been engraved with lengthy laborious recipes, we, the new generation, are often ready to take an easier approach. These Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi might seem like an escape from the old tradition, however, there is work involved, and lots of love, which is always a great component of any recipes.

There are many of you out there that don’t like beets, because of their earthiness. We assure you that this recipe tones that down a bit and this Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi can be a favorite in your household. Plus, who can resist that gorgeous color??

Buon Appetito!

Song of the day: Dreamers by The Royal Foundry.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi in a Brown Butter Gorgonzola Sauce

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Serving Size: 2 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 180 g cooked beets
  • 200 g ricotta
  • 3 tbsp Parmigiano
  • 1 small lemon, the zest
  • pinch salt
  • 140 g flour + more for dusting the surface while working
  • For the sauce:
  • 3 Tbsp salted butter
  • 60 g smoked gorgonzola
  • 2 Tbsp Parmigiano
  • 6 sage leaves

Instructions

  1. Wash and peel the beets, then boil them in large pot for about 20 minutes or until fork tender (our were small beets).
  2. Once cooked, drain of any water, put them in a food processor to finely puree them, then let cool.
  3. In a medium bowl mix the ricotta cheese with the Parmigiano, a pinch of salt, and the lemon zest. Add the beetroot puree and mix again.
  4. Transfer the puree on a floured working surface and add more flour, a little at a time, kneading slowly, until all absorbed and you get a soft and malleable ball of dough.
  5. Let it rest in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
  6. Dust a work surface with flour and transfer the dough onto the board.
  7. With a sharp knife cut a slice of dough approximately 1/4 inch thick and roll the slice into a long thin roll approx 1/2 inch diameter, then cut it into 1 inch pieces.
  8. Using a wooden gnocchi board and just a light dusting of flour roll the gnocchi pieces off the board creating a ridged texture. It may take a few tries to get the feel of how much pressure you need to use (you can also a fork, or simply roll the pieces into a ball).
  9. Transfer the gnocchi onto a floured baking sheet and sprinkle some more flour on top.
  10. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the gnocchi gently a few at a time and cook them for about 4 minutes. They are ready about 1 minute after they've come up to the surface.
  11. While the gnocchi are cooking, prepare the brown butter gorgonzola sauce.
  12. In a non-stick pan add the butter, the gorgonzola cut into cubes, and a few sage leaves. Add the Parmigiano and melt well until a soft creamy consistency is obtained.
  13. Drain the dumplings with a slotted spoon and add them to the pan with the sauce, adding maybe a touch of the cooking water if the sauce is too thick.
  14. Plate and decorate with some fresh sage leaves.
  15. Eat while still warm and creamy.

Notes

If you don't have a wooden gnocchi board you can use a fork by placing it face down and rolling the gnocchi off the back side of the fork, or simply roll the pieces of dough between your hands into small balls.

Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi

Ricetta in Italiano:

Gnocchi di Ricotta e Barbabietola al burro e gorgonzola

Yield: 2 abbondanti porzioni

Ingredients

  • 180 g di barbabietole cotte
  • 200 g di ricotta
  • 3 cucchiai di Parmigiano
  • 1 limone piccolo, la buccia grattugiata
  • 1 pizzico di sale
  • 140 g di farina + q.b. per spolverare il piano di lavoro
  • Per la salsa:
  • 3 cucchiai di burro
  • 60 g di gorgonzola
  • 2 cucchiai di Parmigiano
  • qualche foglia di salvia

Instructions

  1. Se usate le barbabietole fresche, lavate e sbucciate le barbabietole, poi fatele bollire per circa 20 minuti o fino a quando diventano tenere da bucare con una forchetta.
  2. Una volta cotte, scolatele bene, fatele freddare, poi frullatele fino a farle diventare una purea.
  3. Se usate quelle già lesse, scolatele bene, poi frullatele fino a farle diventare una purea.
  4. In una ciotola mescolate la ricotta con il Parmigiano, un pizzico di sale e la buccia grattugiata di limone. Aggiungete la purea di barbabietole e mescolate di nuovo.
  5. Trasferite la purea su una superficie di lavoro spolverata di farina e cominciate ad aggiungere farina, un po' alla volta, impastando lentamente, finché tutta sia assorbita e ottenete una palla morbida (e ancora un po' appiccicosa) di pasta. Non aggiungete troppa farina o gli gnocchi diventeranno duri.
  6. Lasciatela riposare in frigorifero per circa 15 minuti.
  7. Spolvere di farina la superficie di lavoro e trasferite l'impasto sulla tavola.
  8. Con un coltello tagliente tagliate una fetta di pasta alla volta, arrotolatela a formare un lungo cordone e tagliate gli gnocchi in pezzi non troppo grandi (circa 2 cm).
  9. Ora potete usare la forchetta, la tavoletta rigata di legno per fare le righe (o potete lasciarli così come sono).
  10. Trasferite gli gnocchi su una placca da forno infarinata e spolverate sopra altra farina.
  11. Portate a bollore una pentola di acqua salata, rovescaitevi con delicatezza gli gnocchi pochi alla volta e cuoceteli per circa 4 minuti. Sono pronti circa un minuto dopo che sono venuti in superficie.
  12. Mentre gli gnocchi stanno cucinando, preparate la salsa al burro e gorgonzola.
  13. In una pentola antiaderente aggiungete il burro, il gorgonzola tagliato a cubetti e qualche foglia di salvia. Aggiungete il Parmigiano e fate sciogliere bene fino d ottenere una consistenza morbida e cremosa.
  14. Scolate gli gnocchi con un colino e aggiungeteli alla padella con la salsa, aggiungendo un po' dell'acqua di cottura se la salsa è troppo spessa.
  15. Impiattate e mangiate mentre ancora caldi e cremosi.
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24 Comments

  • Reply Cathy October 27, 2017 at 7:30 am

    I enjoy reading about your Italian experiences, and I love that you’ve made this with beets! It looks delicious!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you Cathy! So glad you enjoy our posts. These gnocchi are pretty and so good!

  • Reply Denise from Urb'n'Spice October 27, 2017 at 7:41 am

    These beetroot ricotta gnocchi are gorgeous to look at and I am sure so delicious with that lovely sauce. Thank you for sharing such wonderful food memories of the mamas and nonnas teaching their way of preparing and cooking beautiful simple food. I love those stories.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 12:31 pm

      The sauce is just the right compliment to the gnocchi! Thank you for taking the time to read, I love sharing my stories with all of you!

  • Reply Dana Sandonato October 27, 2017 at 7:52 am

    These are so pretty! I really want to make gnocchi, just haven’t gotten around to it yet. But this totally has me inspired. It’s certainly never looked easy — maybe a little tedious even. But I’ve made my share of homemade pierogi so I’m no stranger to tedious kitchen tasks and damn, the reward after? Worth it 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 12:33 pm

      Hi Dana! Unfortunately gnocchi are not as easy as one might think. Everyone can make them, is to get the right consistency that is the thing to master. The ricotta gnocchi are a little easier to make right, and so tender. Definitely worth it. Thank you!

  • Reply Gabrielle @ eyecandypopper October 27, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Oh my! I’ve only made them from scratch a few times, but I can’t resist gnocchi! These are so pretty with the beet red. Love this simple recipe and how it could easily be adapted with other vegetables too, like adding some Swiss chard or spinach, and roasted onion. Ok, now I’m drooling even more… haha

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      Thank you, Gabby! It is delicious, and yes, it would be nice with vegetables like spinach to get a green color. The only thing to pay attention is that any kind of gnocchi do not like watery vegetables (for examples, in potato gnocchi you never use new potatoes for the high water content in them), so i’m thinking we really need to squeeze any residual water left in the spinach 😉 . The problem with gnocchi is the consistency and in order to absorb the water in the vegetables (potatoes or others) one keeps adding flour, contributing to the hardness and chewiness of the gnocchi. P.s. So happy we got to meet you! 🙂

  • Reply Nicole October 27, 2017 at 9:20 am

    Gnocchi is something I’ve always been meaning to make, but never have. After reading your post filled with so many wonderful tips, I feel more inclined to try it now. Great recipe! I’ll let you know when I get around to trying it. 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:00 pm

      Thank you, Nicole! These ricotta gnocchi are a little easier (and forgiving) than the classic potato gnocchi which I haven’t made yet, either 😉 . Hope you try them and let me know!

  • Reply maria October 27, 2017 at 11:18 am

    I, for one, cannot resist the color nor the vegetable… so much so, that at our last visit to the farmers market, we picked up 2 bags of beets!!!
    My mom, and grandmother felt the same way about adding eggs to gnocchi (potato or ricotta)… a definite NO! As has been your experience, the addition eggs would be considered as some sort of food crime in my family! Wonderful post with mouthwatering photos… thanks for sharing ♥♥♥

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:02 pm

      I started liking beets in Canada, never been a fan in Italy and now my family there is starting to consume them because I told them so 😉 . So glad we are on the same boat about NOT adding the eggs to make gnocchi! Thank you so much for your lovely comment!!

  • Reply Dawn @ Girl Heart Food October 27, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    I certainly can’t resist that gorgeous colour of beets! And then paired with pillowy gnocchi with brown butter gorgonzola sauce?! Swoon! This looks (and I’m sure) tastes absolutely phenomenal! I remember seeing these on your IG and so happy you’ve brought us the recipe 😉 Pinned! Have a lovely weekend, you guys!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Thanks so much, Dawn! Hope you’re having a great weekend as well! Yes, they are not only pretty but also taste fantastic! 🙂

  • Reply Mitanti Ghosh October 27, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    I did my homemade Gnocchi with potatoes, flour and “eggs”. Interesting to know of this version without eggs and with beet. Looks colorful as well. Must try this out 🙂

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:08 pm

      Hi! I know, Italians are very particular about their recipes which mostly reflect the Regional cuisines 😉 . These ones with ricotta and beets are light and so good, would love for you to try it and tell me about your experience! Thank you!

  • Reply diversivore October 27, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    You guys, this might be one of my favourite posts yet – and that’s saying a LOT. First off, love your honesty and upfront introduction to gnocchi. I’ve made a few batches over the years, but I too have balked at the idea of making my own potato gnocchi. It seems rather daunting – even more so given the distinctive lack of nonnas in my life. But these – the colour, the textures, the flavours – they’re incredible. You treat the beets with such respect and reverence, and the gnocchi’s so perfectly crafted. I love that gnocchi board to for the record. I’ve been meaning to get one (or make one, because I love that stuff). And in the end, I’m with you when it comes to the approach – it may not be the old way, but it’s a great way. Cheers.

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Oh, thank you, Sean! You make us blush (and so happy 😉 ). As I was saying to somebody’s, everybody can make gnocchi, to master the right consistency is the problem 🙂 . Since I know the good ones, but I’ve also tasted many bad ones, I keep doing these ricotta gnocchi which are more forgiving and incredible! 🙂 .

  • Reply Marisa October 27, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    Oh my goodness these gnocchi look amazing and I absolutely love the beet red colour. I am so looking forward to trying them! Beautifully done Nicoletta😊

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:14 pm

      Isn’t that color amazing? Nature is perfect! Thank you so much, Marisa!

  • Reply Amanda (Peppers and Pennies) October 28, 2017 at 10:27 am

    I only recently learned that gnocchi didn’t have to be made with potato and that ricotta is a great type of gnocchi. And now you go an add beets to them! Wow! Love the colouring of these and think they would steal the show in a simple cream soup. Great shots, Friends!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 28, 2017 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Amanda! Yes! Ricotta gnocchi are a type of gnocchi and so light, fluffy and tender. Plus, these ones with the beets have a gorgeous color 🙂 . Thank you!!

  • Reply Leslie-Anne October 30, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I totally get the idea of quanto basta – some types of food preparation is all about the feeling of the dough/moisture in the air/size of the farm fresh eggs – it’s impossible to quantify all the variables! Loved this post – thanks for a great read!

    • Nicoletta
      Reply Nicoletta October 30, 2017 at 12:08 pm

      Thank you so much, Leslie-Anne! It is true, so many variable to quantify, and that’s when experience, intuition, and common sense step in.

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