Ricotta gnocchi is the lighter, fluffier and easier-to-make cousin of the more popular potato gnocchi. These soft and cheesy little dumplings are one of the easiest homemade pasta recipes to make — simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl, then roll and cut into little pieces.
If your kids can handle modeling clay, they can make ricotta gnocchi! You may prefer to make the initial dough to assure the amounts are correct. Instead of knives, you can let the younger kids pinch out pieces by hand or give them small cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
Swap option: We paired these with a simple homemade marinara sauce, but you can use your favorite store-bought sauce or even simply toast the boiled gnocchi in a skillet with a little butter or olive oil.
Chunky marinara sauce
- Two 28-ounce cans whole peeled tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
- 1 large white or yellow onion, diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 1 medium carrot, finely grated
- 5 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1½ teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 large bay leaves
- 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves (about 20 medium leaves), torn into small pieces
- 16 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more
- 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1¼ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 4 tablespoons butter (optional)
- Grated Parmesan
For the chunky marinara sauce:
1. Pour both cans of tomatoes into a large bowl. Use your hands to crush the tomatoes into smaller pieces. Set aside.
2. Heat the butter in a large, heavy-bottom saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook 1 minute, until fragrant. Add the crushed tomatoes and juices, oregano, salt, pepper and bay leaves. Stir and let simmer uncovered on low heat, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until thickened.
3. Remove the bay leaves, stir in the basil. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper, as desired.
For the gnocchi:
1. Place a sieve over a bowl and line with paper towel or cheesecloth. Add the ricotta and let drain at room temperature for one hour.
2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt and nutmeg. Add the drained ricotta and whisk until smooth.
3. Add 1¼ cups flour and stir in until all ingredients are evenly combined and a soft dough forms. The dough should be slightly tacky to the touch, but not so sticky that it comes off in your hands. Sprinkle in a bit more flour, one tablespoon at a time until your reach the right consistency. Shape dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and chill in refrigerator 30 minutes.
4. Dust some flour on your work surface and your hands. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper. Pinch off a ball of dough about the size of a lemon and roll out into a 3/4-inch thick log. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut crosswise into 3/4-inch pieces. Place pieces on the lined baking sheet, and repeat with rest of dough.
5. Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the gnocchi and stir to separate. When the gnocchi rise, let cook for 2-3 additional minutes.
Serve with boiled gnocchi with warmed marinara sauce. Or, if preferred, toast gnocchi before adding sauce. Or, to toast, melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet and add the gnocchi. Let cook about 3 minutes or until toasted on one side. Remove from pan and serve as is or with pasta sauce.
Serve with additional grated cheese on the side.