“We’re Winning” Ricotta Gnocchi with Wild Mushroom Sauce
Today the Freds are celebrating some recent big wins in life, with this special (read takes a while to make and is a bit finicky for a weeknight) dinner. We encourage you to do the same! Keep in mind, winning is mainly about perspective…manage to make it home in one piece today? Win! Finally steal back your stapler from your clepto coworker? Win! Was your car towed or sideswiped? No, you say? Win! So get some flowers for your table, light those candles, and celebrate your recent wins with a delicious meal.
A while ago I gave up on gnocchi. I really liked the idea of it, but the theory never really lived up to the reality. I tried homemade, store bought, and restaurant gnocchi. I tried potato, parsnip, sweet potato, and turnip gnocchi. Inevitably, the taste was bland and the consistency always strangely gummy. Then we stumbled upon the wonder that is ricotta gnocchi and decided to give it a try since it’s cheese based, and we’ve never disliked anything that consisted mainly of cheese. And wonder of wonders, I suddenly wanted gnocchi all the time! This version is substantial, yet has a fluffy mouth feel, and thanks to the cheese and the abundance of herbs the taste of the gnocchi stands out rather than relying on a sauce to carry the meal.
To test your gnocchi dough’s consistency, grab a handful and form it into a ball. You should get little bits sticking to your fingers but the ball should hold its shape, as in the picture below. If you end up with a gloppy mess of a ball and dough all over your fingers, add more flour by the tablespoon until you can form a neater ball.
Wild Mushroom Cream Sauce
Any dried mushroom, or mix of mushrooms will work fine. We often use porcini, but in this version we used half black trumpet and half chanterelles.
When adding the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, pour it out slowly, watching carefully that any grit from the mushrooms that has settled to the bottom does not get poured out into your sauce. This will require you to leave a bit of gritty liquid in your measuring cup.
3 tbs butter
½ to ¾ cup shallots, minced
2 oz dried mushrooms
½ cup heavy cream
3 tbs minced parsley
Rehydrate the mushrooms in 2 cups of near boiling water for 20 minutes. When finished, remove the mushrooms with a fork or slotted spoon and reserve the soaking liquid for later use. If you don’t like big mushroom pieces, chop the mushrooms, otherwise leave them whole and set aside.
Heat the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. (The pan with sides that go straight up and has a lid; you can also use a wide pot if you don’t own a sauté pan, but this will increase the time it takes for the liquid to reduce and thicken). Add the shallots and cook until the edges begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and salt and pepper to taste, cook 1-2 minutes until they release a pleasant aroma.
Increase the heat to medium high and add the reserved mushroom soaking liquid, allowing to simmer briskly until the liquid has reduced by about half, about 8 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer until the sauce just starts to thicken, about two minutes. Turn the heat off, stir in the parsley, then cover until you are ready to add the gnocchi.
Herbed Ricotta Gnocchi (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated)
(Serves 4 as a main course)
½ cup breadcrumbs, toasted until golden brown
16 oz ricotta cheese
1 large egg
2 tablespoons minced parsley
2 tablespoons minced basil
6 tbs all purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 oz parmesan cheese, grated, plus additional for garnish
salt and pepper to taste
Line a fine mesh strainer with a triple layer of coffee filters, or a single layer of cheese cloth and set it over a bowl. Place the ricotta into the lined strainer and place in the refrigerator for an hour to allow any excess liquid to drain out.
Transfer the drained ricotta to a large bowl, and fluff with a fork until it becomes a bit grainy (see above picture). Using a rubber spatula, combine ricotta, egg, basil, parsley, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper in large bowl. Add flour, Parmesan, and bread crumbs; stir until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 15 minutes. Check texture of dough (see description of how and picture above) and add more flour if needed.
Lightly dust work surface with flour. With floured hands, roll lemon-sized piece of dough into 3/4-inch-thick rope, rolling from center of dough outward. Cut rope into 3/4-inch-long pieces and transfer to parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough, dusting work surface with flour as needed.
Bring 4 quarts water to boil in large pot or Dutch oven over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon salt. Reduce heat so water is simmering, then gently drop half of gnocchi into water and cook until all pieces float to surface. Continue to simmer until gnocchi are cooked through, about 2 minutes longer, adjusting heat to maintain gentle simmer. Using slotted spoon, scoop gnocchi from water, allowing excess water to drain from spoon; transfer gnocchi to skillet with sauce and cover to keep warm. Repeat cooking process with remaining gnocchi. Using rubber spatula, gently toss gnocchi with sauce until uniformly coated. Top individual bowls with extra grated parmesan and serve immediately.