Ricotta gnocchi, a recipe from Ostro

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I have known, and admired, Julia Busuttil Nishimura, for many years now and always felt connected through our love of Italian food, Tuscany (Julia lived in Florence and in Orbetello, just 10 minutes away from where we lived in Porto Ercole while I was writing Acquacotta) and Japan. So I have been eagerly awaiting her debut cookbook, Ostro: The Pleasure that Comes From Slowing Down and Cooking with Simple Ingredients, and it is a beauty — it is full of food I want to make and eat. It’s also a joy to look at, as it is presented so beautifully with photographs of Julia (and often her darling little boy Haruki) at home and tables full with food that look Caravaggesque.

I have already made her everyday banana loaf, several times, after years of searching for my ideal everyday cake, it is now my go-to banana loaf. I tested her ricciarelli (soft almond cookies from Siena) and pork braised in milk (a classic Italian dish that I have always loved) when she was writing the book and I have long-known her absolutely wonderful, incredibly moist lemon olive oil cake (which is also divine with blood oranges). I absolutely love her homemade approach to everything, including all the wonderful handmade pasta like trofie and orecchiette (look at those beautiful dishes below), but also things like classic tiramisu — homemade savoiardi, homemade mascarpone (yes and yes, I absolutely believe that for the freshest, most delicious mascarpone, it needs to be homemade especially if you live outside of Italy).

Yes, these are all things you can also buy in a packet, but Julia’s point is, it is a pleasure to make these things by hand, and the ingredients are so simple — water, flour, cream, eggs, — you probably have them all in your house already. She is a woman after my own heart. Her book inspires you to give it a go.

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For me, I couldn’t resist the idea of ricotta gnocchi. I have made so many different types of gnocchi but I had never made a ricotta version. Sadly for potato gnocchi, I don’t think I’ll be making it very often anymore. Ricotta gnocchi is so pillowy, so quick to make and easy to handle, with such a delicate, delicious bite that I think I may only ever make ricotta gnocchi from now on.

Key to the recipe (and any recipe that involves making some kind of dumpling from ricotta, like spinach and ricotta gnudi), is good, firm ricotta. Outside of Italy, an Italian deli is the best bet, rather than the supermarket, and it may not be easy to come by so Julia recommends making your own. Once you have that, though, the rest is such a breeze, such a pleasure to make.

Julia’s recipe pairs ricotta gnocchi with a summer tomato sauce made from ripe cherry tomatoes, cooked down with garlic and basil (she also has a winter tomato sauce). Here I have paired them with caponata, a Sicilian vegetable stew of eggplants, zucchini, red peppers, onion and tomato cooked with a splash of vinegar. To be honest, they would really suit many different kinds of sauces, I wouldn’t hesitate to dress them with pesto (homemade, of course), ragu (I love Elizabeth David’s recipe) or even just some butter and parmesan — just keep it simple.

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Ricotta gnocchi from Ostro

This is Julia Busuttil Nishimura’s ricotta gnocchi recipe from her debut cookbook, Ostro, published by Plum Books. Thank you to Julia and Plum for allowing me to share it here on my blog, after many requests for the recipe on instagram! Be sure to use well-drained, firm ricotta. It should be able to stand on its own!

  • 400 grams fresh full-fat ricotta
  • 2 egg yolks
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 45 grams parmesan, grated
  • 100-200 grams tupo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
  • sea salt and black pepper

To make the dough, combine the ricotta, yolks, nutmeg and parmesan in a bowl and combine. Season with salt and pepper. Gradually add flour until you have a soft ball. You may or may not need all of the flour, so if it is still a bit sticky, work a little at a time until it is easy to handle.

Cut the dough into quarters and, working one piece at a time on a floured surface (wood is ideal for pasta making), roll into a long log, about 1.5cm (1/2 inch) in diameter. Using a knife or dough scraper, cut the dough into 2cm (3/4 inch) lengths to form the gnocchi. Cook them in salted, boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until cooked through. They should be floating at the top of the water and — taste one — should not taste like flour. Serve with your favourite sauce.

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