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.
Making gnocchi might seem like an easy task, but in fact, 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. No eggs. The eternal dilemma of adding or not an ingredient is typical of some classic Italian dishes and their Region of origin. Adding or not eggs can cause heated debates among grandmas and moms throughout Italy. My mom, and actually all my relatives, swear that with the addition of the egg the gnocchi become harder and chewier. I like my mom's gnocchi, they are light and tender and taste like a soft pillow made of potatoes.
Easier and more foolproof to make, ricotta gnocchi are a great alternative. Unlike our Basil Ricotta Gnudi, these light and delicious Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi do not have any eggs among 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!
The other ingredients
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. TIP: drain the ricotta in a colander, if too liquid.
- 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)
Adding the flour is the tricky part
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, 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". But how much is just enough? And how are you supposed to know if I put too much or too little?
A sensory experience
Trust me, you know. Cooking and baking are also sensorial experiences. All the senses play an important role when choosing the ingredients. For example, when you're at the Farmers markets and you touch or smell fruits and vegetables to feel their ripeness. Also, when you are peeling, cutting, chopping, or slicing. More importantly, when you're hand working dough, both sweet and savory, when no written recipe can tell you what you need to feel with your hands.
Preparing the beets
Wash, peel and boil the beets (we chose smaller ones for a faster cooking and a sweeter/less earthy flavor). Then, puree them in a food processor or use a ricer. If using a food processor, like us, use a bit of water to help the blades puree the beets. TIP: If your beets are too watery, let them drain in a colander before adding them to the ricotta to make the mixture.
Make the dough
In a small bowl, 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 add the pureed beets and this creates a beautiful, vivid fuchsia color. Transfer the mixture to a wood work surface dusted with flour. Now is the time where you add the flour a little at a time. I gave you an approximate amount but I strongly recommend "feeling" 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.
Let the dough rest, then shape the gnocchi
Let the dough rest in the fridge for just 15 minutes. It helps with the texture and consistency. Then, cut a piece of dough at a time, and roll it into a long roll. After, with a knife or bench scraper, cut the gnocchi. This activity 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. He rolled the dough, and cut it into 1,5 cm gnocchi. And I passed them on the wooden gnocchi board I purchased at Eataly in Rome.
No gnocchi board? No problem
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.
The importance of ridges or "dimples"
As with the dried pasta, the ridges create a textural element. Thus, the sauce can stick to the pasta better than on a smooth surface. Equally, the dimples are where the sauce is going to sit and those pools of sauce would very welcome.
Remember to lay the gnocchi on a well floured baking sheet. Also, dust some more flour on top. Try to dust off some of the flour when it is time to cook them.
Cooking the gnocchi
Have a pot of salted water on a boil, add the gnocchi gently to the pot in batches. Pay attention not to splash yourself with hot water.
Gnocchi (as most of the homemade pasta), do not take long to cook. When they come to the surface, allow one more minute, then 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. We have a hand-woven willow pasta drainer we bought in Italy that we use specifically for homemade pasta.
You can make the sauce as the gnocchi are cooking. It is pretty easy and fast. In a large non-stick pan add butter, sage, gorgonzola and Parmigiano. Let slowly melt, and the sage crisp up a bit. Then, drain the gnocchi with a colander and add to the pan with a touch of the cooking water. That keeps the gnocchi moist and the sauce creamy.
Optional: omit the Gorgonzola, if you do not like it, and make a simple brown butter sage sauce.
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The taste test
Now for the best part: tasting! The first thing that captivates you is the texture. These beetroot ricotta gnocchi are incredibly light, filled with plenty of little air pockets that help this morsel break apart in your mouth. A beautiful dance of flavors happens between the creamy sauce and the subtle earthy richness of the beetroot. And that crispy sage comes in to give a bit of spice to the mix.
There are many of you out there that don't like beets, because of their earthiness. Anyway, we think that this Beetroot Ricotta Gnocchi can be a favorite in your household. Plus, who can resist that gorgeous color??
- 180 g cooked beets
- 200 g ricotta
- 3 tablespoon grated Parmigiano
- 1 small lemon, the zest
- pinch salt
- 140 g flour + more for dusting the surface while working
For the sauce:
- 3 tablespoon salted butter
- 60 g Gorgonzola (or Taleggio, Fontina)
- 2 tablespoon 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 then put them in a food processor with a touch of the cooking water. Puree finely, 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 the 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 or bench scraper, cut a slice of dough approximately ¼ inch thick and roll the slice into a long thin roll approx ½ inch diameter, then cut it into 1 inch pieces.
- Using a wooden gnocchi board lightly dusted with flour, roll the gnocchi 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 gnocchi 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 enjoy right away.
If you don't have a wooden gnocchi board you can use a fork and rolling the gnocchi off the back side of the fork. Or simply roll the pieces of dough between your hands into small balls.
- Prep Time: 1 hour
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Main, Vegetarian
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: beets, gnocchi, ricotta, ricotta gnocchi, italian, homemade, pasta, delicious, main, Parmigiano
I love baking and kneading dough because it takes me to a happy place in my soul.