A Do Nothing Day of Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi

Saturday, August 21, 2010

-A perfect Late Summer - Almost Fall dish.-

I don't have to do anything today. Nothing. My errands are all done. I have no real work waiting to be finished. I actually balanced my checkbook and took care of my finances on Thursday. So, I can choose to do nothing.

It's a pleasant change not to have to bake or cook for a potluck, dress up for a party or dancing, or drive all over town. As I write this the clock says 5:22 PM and I have yet to take a shower, and the back of my hair is still standing tall and fanned like a rooster's tail, the same as it was when I woke up around ten this morning.

It's fabulous really. Having a day to do nothing rarely ever happens to me anymore. Often I have far too much on my plate and recently I've been heaping on a few extra helpings. As much as others point this out to me my usual response isn't that I have too much on my plate but rather my plate is simply too small.

-After a few minutes I already have the dough resting in its first log form.-

After I loafed out of bed I wrapped myself in a blanket and took some green tea and toast smeared with homemade jam on the patio. The bees were humming around the tomatillo plants whose vines had begun to reach across the entire garden gaily livening the space up with hundreds of green and purple paper lanterns. There was a small, slightly chilly wind that made the blanket and tea all the more enjoyable. It was like a San Francisco summer morning; evidence that Summer was soon about to end and Fall about to begin. I made a mental note to pick up some figs at the Farmer's Market the next day, the brisk air being the sign they were now ready.

The chill air and empty schedule gave me energy and I was still a bit peckish. I decided I would make some gnocchi. Generally a food I consider perfect for colder months the weather seemed to be an auspicious sign that today was a day for making gnocchi. Of course, not all gnocchi has to be starchy and heavy (well, heavy for gnocchi). Ricotta gnocchi is the lighter cousin of potato gnocchi, not to mention far easier and faster to prepare. The task usually occupying only 20 minutes or so.

-Cutting the ropes of dough into pillows of gnocchi.-

I dug out the leftover ricotta from the fridge that we had kept around for when we made jam earlier in the week and set it aside to come to room temperature. (Whenever I make jam I take the foam skimmed off from the cooking jam and pour it over small bowl of ricotta or cottage cheese as a sweet treat, a little trick I picked up from my grandmother's old cookbook.) The cheese, plus the zest from an extra lemon that hadn't been used in yesterday's plum sauce, would form the flavor base for the gnocchi.

The gnocchi dough is simple and slightly messy but easily made even within the crowded confines of an apartment galley kitchen. Once set they cook up in about two to three minutes. Poofy, light and sweet, tasting of lemon and cheese they best imbue the tastes and textures of two seasons on your tongue.

-A bench scraper is a godsend for cutting up gnocchi and makes cleaning afterwards a breeze.-

I ended up serving these as simply as I made them: with a quick pesto made from a bit of garlic and some basil from the garden whizzed together with lemon juice and olive oil in the food processor. It was then topped with a bit of grated ricotta salata, a form of ricotta cheese that's pressed, salted, and dried making it perfect for finishing off any pasta dish.

After the gnocchi was ready I took a small plate of it to the couch and buried myself under the blanket again. I had kept the windows open to let the same refreshingly cold air circulate the room to invigorate it a bit. I popped on an episode of Weeds and let the cats conquer my lap in the name of naps while I ate my meal. My day was over, and, aside from gnocchi, I had no other plans. It would be a satisfying Saturday.

-The results of my do nothing day.-

Lemon Ricotta Gnocchi
Recipe adapted from Pasta Sfoglia

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 pounds whole milk ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 egg
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest

1. Spread the flour out on a clean, dry work surface. Place the ricotta, salt, black pepper, egg, and zest on top of the flour and lightly knead it with your hands bringing together all the ingredients. Gently knead the dough into an 10-inch log and allow it to rest a few minutes.

2. Lightly dust a clean, dry work surface with flour. Cut the log into four equal pieces. Gingerly, lightly, roll each piece into a 1-inch thick piece of rope. (You may have to cut the rope once or twice to keep in manageable.) Cut the gnocchi into 1/2-inch pillows. Lightly dust with flour.

To Cook: Place gnocchi in boiling salted water. When the gnocchi have floated to the top, allow them to cook for another two minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and serve.

To Store: Place gnocchi on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer. Once frozen place in an air tight container. Thaw an hour before cooking. Stores for 2 weeks.

To Serve: These are best served simply. A basic tomato sauce tossed with some white wine, capers and garlic is a wonderful way to dress these. Alternatively, a simple basil pesto is also perfect. Top with a bit of grated ricotta salata, Parmesan, or even Pecorino Romano for a bit of bite. An extra dash of lemon zest will go a long way as well.

-The recipe makes enough for multiple servings. So a short amount of work lets you feed many or gives you plenty of gnocchi for future meals.-

-Feel free to not use the lemon zest, or if you want to mix it up use orange zest instead.-

Related Post: Sweet Potato Gnocchi Recipe


  1. Gosh i wish my nothing days included whipping up gnocchi. This look and sound great. I am going to try these with basil since i have a bunch and fresh tomatoes as a sauce, thanks for the idea AND i bet they dont serve this in jail..:)

  2. That looks amazing! How many cups is 1.5 lbs ricotta?

  3. Annonymous: Ricotta is sold usually in 16 oz/ 1lb containers. =)

  4. Sounds delicious! I'll definitely try it. Do you think this would work as well with low fat ricotta (which I often have in my fridge)? If it must be whole milk to work properly, then I guess I'll be running to the store to pick some up!

  5. Lynn: I can't imagine it will affect it too much. If you try it let me know how it works out. =)

  6. Looks incredible...and inspired my own do-nothing-Sunday with homemade croutons and heirloom tomato salad...thanks!

  7. Wow... This looks really delicious!!! I hope I can try it soon... Preferably when my schedule isn't ramen-flavored. :D

    SIDE NOTE: WOW! You watch Weeds, too? Okay, now you're just plain AWESOME. :D

  8. The gnocchi do look delicious, but my favorite thing about the entry was the writing; LOVED your description of the day. I really enjoyed the imagery, thank you! :)

  9. wow your gnocchi look delicious! i've never tried ricotta in them before, but i can only imagine they'd be light and tender. yum!

  10. This sounds SO delicious! I'm sharing you on my blog... Donna@Conghaile Cottage

  11. Awesome! This looks SOOOO yummy! I will be spending a week with my grandparents, cooking for them. My grandmother is on a low-sodium diet, but I think this should work well! (depending on the sodium content of the ricotta). I can't wait to make this!

  12. This is totally inspiring me! For some reason, I am inexplicably drawn to pasta with lemon--I'm always on the lookout for recipes! Your gnocchi look beautiful and I am bookmarking them/throwing them into my Evernote recipes notebook.

  13. I tried the recipe tonight with part skim ricotta. The gnocchi came out great! My 3-year-old loved the "pasta pillows" and my husband loved it too! The dough is so delicate that I worried they would not hold together in the boiling water. But they did, and came out light, fluffy and delicious! I sauteed them with a little brown butter and sage. I froze half the recipe for another meal. Thanks for the recipe!

  14. This looks quite delicious! Your presentation is impressive and the preparation looks simple enough. Where did you come across this recipe?

  15. DL - The cookbook "Pasta Sfoglia" is my source. Phenomenal read.


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