When I think of the most wonderful dish I have ever eaten in the whole wide world, my mind always goes to the lobster-sauced ricotta gnocchi I enjoyed from the kitchen of Chef Giuseppe Di Gennaro, at Capo here in Calgary.  Giuseppe has gone on to other ventures, but I’ll bet ricotta gnocchi are still on his menu.

While that lobster sauce was plate-licking good, it was the first time I had encountered not-potato gnocchi, and it was a life changer.  Potato gnocchi, even when well made, were on the heavy end of the pasta spectrum for me.  These ricotta gnocchi, however, were tender and light, and I was pretty sure they had great potential for multi-tasking.

I fell in love with the alternative term “gnudi” from a punster’s point of view – it sounded like the best possible term for the unclothed middles of ravioli, which is what ricotta gnocchi are.  Wordplay aside, ricotta gnocchi, or gnudi if you prefer (and I do), are good in so many ways – easy to make, easy to freeze and cook later, easy to flavor and sauce in many different ways, easy on the budget, and easy to portion for controlled consumption (read “diet”).

A quick survey of the internet showed ratios of ricotta to eggs to flour to parmesan all over the map.  This is what works for me.

Ricotta Gnocchi (Gnudi)

This is not a fuss-free recipe.  On the day you make them fresh, there will be flour everywhere, and plenty of clean-up involved.    Once you have them ready to cook in your freezer, on the other hand, dinner is a snap. That being said, this may be a project you would like to undertake with a friend:  Make a budget, make a big batch, have a little feast while you freeze up the surplus, then share the spoils.  Party in the kitchen!  Freeze uncooked gnocchi on a piece of plastic wrap on a cookie sheet, uncovered.  When thoroughly frozen (if they’re small, less than an hour), bag or container them up for future consumption.


475 – 500g Ricotta cheese (different brands come in different weights – use the whole tub.  You could even make your own!)  Drain it in a sieve for a couple of hours if it’s very wet.

2 egg yolks

¾ cup (more or less) finely grated parmesan or grana padana or pecorino romano cheese (save some for garnishing)

½ cup all-purpose flour (more or less) (use slightly less potato starch or gluten-free flour, and just a pinch of xanthan gum)


To make the dough, stir ricotta, egg yolks and cheese until smooth. Stir in flour. Dough will be soft.  Wait a couple of minutes before if you decide whether or not it’s too soft – it takes a little time for the flour to absorb the water from the ricotta, especially gluten-free flour or potato starch.  If it really is too soft to handle, add more flour 1 Tbsp at a time.  The more flour you add, the firmer they’ll be, all the way to downright chewy.  I like to keep mine soft. They don’t look quite as tidy, but the texture is divine.

You have the option of adding flavor to your gnocchi.

I love the flavor of spinach ravioli, so I add wrung-out well-chopped frozen spinach to the basic gnocchi dough, along with a little grating of nutmeg, a grind of black pepper, a pinch of salt, and a little finely grated lemon zest. After boiling, I sauté them off with a couple of mushrooms and a little bacon.  Put them on a nice bed of creamed wilted spinach (finished with a little cream cheese) and a bit more parmesan, and I’m a very happy diner.

Roasted garlic and/or dried Italian Herb Blend incorporated into the dough make gnocchi that go very well with tomatoes or tomato sauce.

You can add half a cup of any kind of vegetable puree – squash, carrot, sweet potato – to the basic dough, along with complimenting spices or herbs (squash with a pinch of cinnamon, for example).  You will need to add a couple of tablespoons of flour if the dough becomes very soft due to the moisture content of the vegetable puree.  I had excellent roasted carrot gnocchi at Yellow Door restaurant recently.  Cruise the internet for ideas – I have seen sundried tomatoes incorporated into the dough, for example.  Make them pink – add some pureed or grated cooked beets!

Back to the Method:

Roll the dough into ropes on a well-floured surface.  Start with a lump of dough, and roll using all your fingers from the centre to the ends.  This is where you can incorporate additional flour if you need to – if a roll won’t form, or if it breaks up in the middle while you are rolling the ends, gently knead in a little flour and try again.  If it gets stiffer than playdough, however, you’re not going to like the end result.

Cut the rope into bite-sized pieces with a bench scraper or knife.

If you’re Italian, you can put a dimple in each piece with your finger, which is meant to make them hold more sauce.  I’m not Italian.

Transfer pieces to floured parchment or a floured kitchen towel or some kind of floured surface until they are all formed.  If you’re freezing a big batch, transfer them to a piece of plastic wrap on a baking sheet or pan that will fit into your freezer (check to make sure – I speak from experience).  Remember to lable the bags with the type and the date.

Before you begin to cook up your gnocchi, have a plan:  You can have sauce warming, or you can have butter or oil hot in a sauté pan.  Either way, have something ready to receive the cooked gnocchi before you put them in the water, because they will not be happy if they have to sit draining in a colander while you get your act together. If you make them wait in the cooking water, they will dissolve.

Boil up a generous pot of water, well-salted.  Add a teaspoon of oil to control any foaming that may occur during the cooking process.

Add your gnocchi, stirring gently to keep them from sticking to the bottom or each other. Adjust the heat so the water is simmering gently, or they’ll fall apart.  Although they’re supposed to be done when they float, I find it prudent to let them cook gently for a minute before removing them to their finishing pan with a slotted spoon, or scooping them up with a small sieve.

Put frozen gnocchi directly into boiling water – no need to thaw.  They may float before the insides are cooked if you decided to make them super-sized, so check as you go.

Simplest finish?  Have a sauté pan waiting with a little butter or olive oil.  Bring the heat on the finishing pan to medium while the gnocchi are floating.  Remove the gnocchi from the water with a slotted spoon and put them right into the hot pan.  Turn them over to coat them.  Brown them or not, as you wish (I like ’em browned).  Add fresh or dried herbs, and an additional sprinkle of whatever cheese you used.  Just that fast, they’re done.  Turn them out onto a plate, garnish with a nice salad, and eat.

The classic treatment is browned butter with fresh sage leaves crisped up in the pan.  It’s very delicious, but don’t let that limit your thinking.

You could have a sauté pan ready with the reduced-whipping-cream-and-cheese sauce from the quick macaroni and cheese posting.  Any cheese, any herbs and spices – it can be a new toy every day. Drain the gnocchi and add them right to the sauce.  Great with steamed broccoli or asparagus or green beans. Special guests?  Make the sauce with cream cheese, and add a little smoked salmon and dill.

You could have a sauté pan ready with a serving of “Hot Tomatoes”.  Add a big handful of greens along with the cooked gnocchi (spinach, arugula, baby kale), turning everything over the heat until the greens just begin to wilt, and you have a whole meal in a bowl.  Extra cheese on top, please!

If you don’t want to go the fresh tomato route, just add your favorite tomato sauce to the browning pan and heat until bubbling.  Garnish with more cheese and fresh herbs if you have them.

I try to have bags of gnocchi in my freezer at all times for fast single servings.  They’re also impressive if someone just happens to be dropping by and you want to throw a little something together. Remember to lable your bags, though.  I make three kinds of gnocchi:  regular, gluten-free, and lactose-free.  I can eat anything, but I have a variety of friends with special dietary requirements.  It’s not nice to hurt your friends!