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.
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 grandma, the 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!
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 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.
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.
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.
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).
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??
Song of the day: Dreamers by The Royal Foundry.
- 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
- 3 Tbsp salted butter
- 60 g smoked gorgonzola
- 2 Tbsp Parmigiano
- 6 sage leaves
- Wash and peel the beets, then boil them in large pot for about 20 minutes or until fork tender (our were small beets).
- Once cooked, drain of any water, put them in a food processor to finely puree them, then let cool.
- 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.
- 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.
- Let it rest in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
- Dust a work surface with flour and transfer the dough onto the board.
- 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.
- 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).
- Transfer the gnocchi onto a floured baking sheet and sprinkle some more flour on top.
- 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.
- While the gnocchi are cooking, prepare the brown butter gorgonzola sauce.
- 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.
- 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.
- Plate and decorate with some fresh sage leaves.
- Eat while still warm and creamy.
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.
Ricetta in Italiano:
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