This is not the time, amid all this heat, humidity, and rain, to ask you to stand in your kitchen with the stove-top going—two burners—and roll gnocchi. And it isn’t the time, quite frankly, to ask you to eat gnocchi, ricotta gnocchi, covered in brown butter; heavy with cheese and fat.
But it is the season for corn. And chanterelles are popping up here in New Jersey. And there’s lots of fresh summer herbs. This gnocchi is perfect, really, for after one of those summer days of swimming and exercise; those days when you get home in good spirits with some adrenaline left and you can get to work rolling gnocchi. Then by the time dinner hits the table, you’ll be ravenous.
I think I just planned your Saturday.
You won’t be disappointed. Homemade gnocchi is just better than anything you can get frozen or—gasp!—from a box. (Though, to be honest, I’ve heard that Trader Joe’s frozen gnocchi is pretty good…) It takes a little getting used to; you need to use the right amount of pressure while you roll each piece against the tines of a fork in order to make those pretty little grooves, and while that right amount of pressure can’t be taught by a recipe, it’s easily learned after you experience squashing your first few.
It’s a bit more labor intensive than rolling out pasta, but I think I mentioned, cheese is involved in this dough, so a little more labor is worth it. And gnocchi is the perfect pasta fix for those without a pasta machine.
This gnocchi recipe is Suzanne Goin’s from Sunday Suppers at Lucques, a gorgeous cookbook, organized by season. I want to make every single one of her recipes, but this was the perfect way to jump into the book. The gnocchi cook up luscious and tender, only to be made more so by the brown butter used to cook each component of the recipe. First the chanterelles are fried in the butter with thyme until they are crisp and ruthlessly seductive. You really must work not to eat them all before the dish is done. Then sage is added to the butter, and the house all of a sudden smells better than ever. Corn gets tossed in with some shallots; the hot butter shines over each kernel of corn before slipping around to hug the gnocchi, which is added to the pan last. Let everything saute for a moment and then serve with lots of fresh parsley, some chives, a grating of parmigianno, and some crispy toasted breadcrumbs.
We ate this alongside spare ribs from the local farm, from pigs we met last winter, using James Beard’s recipe for baking spare ribs. His technique let the natural pork flavor sing and we couldn’t decide which we liked better, the ribs or the gnocchi, until we decided that it was useless, they were both so good, working so well together, that picking sides would be like choosing between chocolate chip cookies and cupcakes. But everything about the gnocchi, we did agree, even with all it’s lusciousness and butter, epitomized summer. It’s irrestible. Happy-making.
Now get rolling.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Chanterelles, Sweet Corn, and Sage Brown Butter
adapted (ever so slightly) from Sunday Supper at Lucques
The only adaption I made was to add less salt than the original recipe. During the last step, Goin advised us to add another 1 teaspoon salt, but I found I didn’t need that. I recommend tasting before adding.
1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 pound chanterelles, cleaned
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 tablespoon sliced sage leaves
3 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
2/3 cup diced shallots
1 recipe ricotta gnocchi (follows)
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 375F.
Toss breadcrumbs with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Spread them on a baking sheet, and toast 8 to 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden brown.
If the mushrooms are big, tear them into bite-size pieces.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and heat another minute. Swirl in 1 tablespoon butter, and when it foams, add the mushrooms, half the thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and a health pinch of pepper. Saute the mushrooms about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they’re tender and a little crispy. Don’t be tempted to move them around in the pan too much in the beginning: let them sear a little before stirring. Transfer the cooked mushrooms to a platter.
Return the pan to the stove, and heat on high for 1 minute. Add the remaining 6 tablespoons butter to the pan, and cook a minute or two, until the butter starts to brown. Add the sage, let it sizzle, and then add the corn, shallots, remaining thyme, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Saute quickly, tossing the corn in the hot butter for about 2 minutes, until the corn is just tender. Add the gnocchi and toss well to coat with the corn and brown butter. Season with salt and pepper to taste, add the mushrooms. Toss to combine, and heat the mushrooms through. Add the parsley. Arrange the gnocchi on a large platter, and shower with the breadcrumbs. Grate over some parmesan cheese if you like.
2 extra-large eggs (I used eggs from my friend’s chickens, which were smaller than extra-large, but didn’t notice a difference)
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1 pound whole milk ricotta, drained if wet
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Beat the eggs together in a small bowl.
Place 2 cups flour, 1 3/4 teaspoons salt, 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, and the ricotta in a large mixing bowl. With a dinner knife in each hand, cut the ricotta into the flour. When the flour and ricotta are combined, make a well in the center and pour in the eggs. Use a fork and, starting in the middle of the mixture, incorporate the eggs into the flour and ricotta. Knead the dough with your hands briefly, just to bring together while being careful not to overwork it. Shape the dough into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut the ball into four pieces, and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
One by one, take each piece of dough out from underneath the towel, cut it in half, and roll it into a 3/4 inch thick rope on a lightly floured cutting board. The amount of flour on the board is very important: if you have too much the dough is difficult to roll, and if you don’t use enough, the dough will stick to the board. Cut the ropes into 1-in-long pices, and sprinkle a little flour over them. Using your thumb, roll each piece of dough over the back of those tines of a fork, leaving an indentation from your thumb on one side and the marking from the fork on the other.
Plunge the gnocchi into the boiling water in batches. Once they rise to the surface, cook them for 1 minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a baking sheet or platter. Drizzle the cooked gnocchi with the olive oil, and toss to coat them well.