These feather light gnocchi are made with ricotta and parmesan instead of the traditional semolina and potatoes. Served in a sugo of tomatoes, basil and olives, garnished with parmesan and oven dried cherry tomatoes, this easy vegetarian dish will stand out for any occasion.
Gnocchi are a favourite dish on the menu for many chefs! Why? Well, because these make a great vegetarian main course, can be prepared ahead of time and can easily be plated to look the part in a fancy restaurant!
I have made gnocchi for many years but mostly based on potatoes and semolina flour. In a restaurant, consistency is key! The type of potatoes and temperature of the gnocchi dough played a vital role. That's why we had to follow the recipe to the tee!
This however changed, when I recently discovered an easy recipe for ricotta gnocchi with tomatoes and olives. To my surprise, the gnocchi dough could be prepared in minutes and the recipe worked perfectly every time I made these Gnocchi.
Now, this recipe is yours so you have to try it out!
Ingredients for Ricotta Gnocchi
I have made these ricotta gnocchi just with four ingredients. Combine all together and we are ready to go!
- Flour - you don't have to buy expensive Italian flour, any plain flour will do.
- Eggs - I used medium sized eggs for this recipe. Four eggs will be needed for one recipe.
- Ricotta - I usually use cow's milk ricotta but I am sure the recipe works with sheep's milk or buffalo ricotta too. If you make the ricotta yourself aim for a more firm consistency as store bought ricotta will not always be as thick. But even if it has a Greek yoghurt consistency, it will work.
- Parmesan - you will find already grated parmesan in most stores. I bought a block and grated the cheese myself.
This will make the base of the gnocchi recipe but there are no limits from here. You can add any flavour you like, if you want to be a bit adventurous. Think of spices, herbs, colours (squid ink or saffron work well) or just some grated lemon zest for a zing.
How to make ricotta gnocchi
In a large bowl combine the flour, eggs (2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks), ricotta and grated parmesan. Add salt but be mindful that the parmesan adds saltiness to the gnocchi too.
Use a hand mixer or kitchen aid fitted with a dough hook to combine the ingredients. Process until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball of dough, taking care not to overmix.
Place the dough on a floured kitchen surface and knead the dough a few times. If the dough feels sticky add some more flour.
Divide the dough into four equal portions. On a floured surface, roll out the first dough into a robe like cylinder shape of 1 ½cm diameter (about ¾ inch). Now cut the cylinder into 2cm long (about 1 inch) gnocchi pieces. When you are happy with the gnocchi, move to the next step.
If you are making these easy Ricotta Gnocchi with tomatoes and olives for a special meal and want them to look a bit fancy, roll them into even sized small balls and then roll them over the end of a fork to give them those typical Gnocchi lines. If you have a Gnocchi board then of course you can use that😉
Repeat with the remaining dough and keep on a plate or wooden board until you are ready to boil them.
AS A NOTE: If you have made the gnocchi well in advance, you can keep in the fridge until you are ready to cook them but do not keep them longer than two hours otherwise they will start absorbing moisture and might not hold shape anymore.
How to cook gnocchi
Similar to cooking pasta, we need to cook the gnocchi in plenty of water. Take a large pot, fill with water, add enough salt to it and bring the water to boil.
Meanwhile, prepare a bowl with ice cold water and have a slotted spoon ready.
Add half of the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir carefully with a slotted spoon - make sure no gnocchi are stuck to the bottom of the pot. Continue cooking the gnocchi until they float to the surface, this should take 2 to 3 minutes.
Now, transfer the gnocchi to the bowl with ice cold water and cook the remaining gnocchi. Strain the gnocchi and keep aside.
If you are planning to use the gnocchi later, toss in olive oil and keep covered in the fridge.
For re-heating the gnocchi, I suggest cooking them in the sauce. Add a gentle simmer until they are hot in the centre. Alternatively, you can pan fry the gnocchi in olive oil - totally up to you!
AS A NOTE: In case you have your sauce already prepared and are ready to serve the gnocchi, you can immediately add the freshly cooked ricotta gnocchi to the sauce without chilling them down. This way they have an even better texture and you can taste the freshness of the ricotta.
How long can you store freshly made gnocchi?
Best to consume Ricotta gnocchi within three days as they contain eggs. If you have made gnocchi ahead of time, either pan sear them or reheat in a sauce before serving.
Gnocchi are also great for freezing as they can last up to 3 months in the freezer. You can freeze them uncooked or cooked. When defrosted, boil the uncooked gnocchi in salted water or reheat the cooked gnocchi in a sauce.
Quick and easy gnocchi sauce made with tomatoes and olives
When it comes to gnocchi, the choice of sauce is similar to pasta. Most pasta sauces will work with ricotta gnocchi however my favourite is a sauce made with tomatoes and olives, so easy to make.
For this pasta sauce, I used a good passata as a base.
What is the difference between Pasta Sauce and Passata?
Passata is obtained directly from fresh, ripe tomatoes that is pureed and then passed through a sieve. The difference between a pasta sauce and passata is, that passata is an uncooked tomato puree whereas Pasta sauce is a cooked product.
If you need that raw, fresh tomato flavour in your recipe then don't swap it with Pasta sauce as it often has other ingredients such as carrots, onions and garlic.
What can you substitute for Passata?
If you cannot find passata in your local store then the best substitute will be to buy canned peeled tomatoes and press them through a sieve. Passata comes very handy when you don't want to mess up your kitchen making a tomato sauce!
Now, let's prepare our sauce for the Ricotta Gnocchi! We are using both Tomato paste and Passata. I am using some tomato paste, as it gives the sauce a nice red vibrant colour.
Steps for making the sauce
- Sear sliced onions and chopped garlic in olive oil.
- When translucent, add a spoon of tomato paste and sauté for a minute
- Next add the red wine followed by the passata
- Season with salt and pepper and cook covered for about 8-10 minutes.
- Add fresh basil leaves and olives.
- Cook for another 5 minutes.
- The consistency of the sauce should not be too thick. You can always add a little water to thin the consistency if required.
- Once you are happy with the sauce, add the gnocchi to it with a splash of olive oil.
How to make restaurant style Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomatoes and Olives
It's true that a thoughtful presentation leads to a more enjoyable meal! But the secrets of plating and presentation aren’t just for chefs. With a few simple techniques anyone can put together plates that look as extraordinary as they taste.
How to plate the Gnocchi
Gnocchi can easily be styled with garnishes, such as herbs, cheese, pine seeds, tomatoes, olives - there are no limits! If you have ever gotten a cold plate of food at a restaurant, chances are either the food had been sitting on the chef's pass and was not picked up by the waiter or the Chef was not organized with the garnishes lol!
So always remember, to have all your garnishes prepared so that your food doesn't get cold while you look for decorations😉
Also, to make a plate look visually appealing, it doesn't have to be overly complicated or time consuming so avoid garnishes that do not make sense on the plate eg whole sprigs of thyme, spices and herbs on one side of the plate. As a chef, I strongly believe that a garnish should have a purpose eg to either give food texture or enhance the flavour or maybe add a pop of color/contrast to the dish.
How to garnish Ricotta Gnocchi with tomatoes and olives
For this recipe, I simply cut cherry tomatoes in half, seasoned them with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme and oven roasted them for 8-10 minutes at 180 degrees. Afterwards I left them outside to dry.
I also added shavings of parmesan, olives, basil leaves and sea salt on my gnocchi together with the oven-dried tomatoes.
Basta! Beautiful and delicious!
I hope you enjoyed making these gnocchi. Once you see how easy it is to make these homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with tomatoes and olives, you might not miss eating at your favourite local Italian diner anymore😋 If you are you looking for some more Italian inspired dishes to make at home, then check out these recipes:
-Making pasta from scratch
-Restaurant style Sweet potato and leek agnolotti with walnut butter
-A real Tiramisu recipe
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Easy Ricotta Gnocchi with Tomatoes and Olives
For the Gnocchi
- 240 g plain flour
- 4 medium eggs
- 250 g ricotta cheese
- 125 g parmesan grated
- salt to taste
For the Tomato Sauce
- 1 medium brown onion peeled and finely sliced
- 2 medium garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
- 150 g cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoon red wine
- 400 g Passata (pureed tomatoes)
- ½ bunch basil
- 90 g pitted kalamata olives
- 4 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
For Plating up
- 40 g parmesan shavings
- 1 handful small basil leaves
- 50 g ovendried cherry tomatoes
For the Gnocchi
- In a large bowl add the flour, ricotta, two egg yolks, 2 whole eggs and grated parmesan. Use a hand mixer or kitchen aid fitted with a hook to combine the ingredients. Process until the mixture comes together into a smooth ball of dough, taking care not to overmix.
- Place the dough on a floured kitchen surface and knead the dough a few times, if the dough feels sticky add some more flour.
- Divide the dough into four equal portions. On a floured surface roll out the dough into a rope like cylinder shape of 1½ cm diameter (about ¾ inch). Now cut the cylinder into 2cm long (about 1 inch) gnocchi pieces. Roll the pieces into small balls and roll over the end of a fork to give the the traditional gnocchi shape. Repeat with the remaining dough.
- Bring a large pot with salted water to a boil. Add half of the gnocchi and cook for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface.
- Transfer the gnocchi to a bowl with ice cold water to cool them down quickly. Strain the gnocchi and reheat in a sauce when needed. Alternatively you can sear the gnocchi in a pan.
For the Tomato Sauce
- Cut the onion in half and slice finely. Heat a medium size, wide pot on high heat and add 3 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and brown them lightly. Add the chopped garlic and reduce the heat to medium.
- When the garlic has cooked for 1-2 minutes add the cherry tomatoes. Cook for a further 2 minutes and add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the red wine and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the passata and season with salt and pepper. Cook covered for 8-10 minutes.
- Add the basil leaves and kalamati olives. Cook for 2 more minutes and reduce to low heat. Adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and the remaining olive oil.
For Plating up
- Add the gnocchi to the tomato sauce and let simmer for at least 5 minutes. Place the gnocchi with the sauce in a bowl and garnish with shaved parmesan, ovendried tomatoes and small basil leaves.