Ricotta Gnocchi With Asparagus Spears In Butter Sauce sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Well, it kinda is, but in all the right ways. I suggest making this dish for dinner when something special is in the air. Great date night dinner plan. The cool part is it doesn’t take long to make and is something that is truly amazing in texture.
Light & fluffy little pillows of cheesy goodness
What is Gnocchi?
Good question. The first time I made gnocchi was in culinary school and thought to myself how cool was that after making and tasting the classic version of gnocchi.
The easy way to think of gnocchi is a “pasta” dish that is also a dumpling. Classicly gnocchi is made from potatoes that have been cooked and then “Riced”. Riced means a style of kitchen tool that grates the potato into small pieces that resemble rice. The texture of the potato after being riced makes for a lighter airier potato. The fluffy potato is then cooled down and the addition of eggs and flour combine creating a pasta dough that can be shaped and cut into many different shapes.
Gnocchi is classicly an Italian dish that is served as a starter course. Taking the place of a soup or traditional appetizer. Often you hear Italians refer to antipasti when referring to an appetizer. Gnocchi is a starter course then becomes the anti-anti-pasta starter.
Today we are making a very Cheff’y version of gnocchi that is actually easier to make than the classic version made with potato. We are going to replace the potato with amazing ricotta cheese. A staple in any Italian kitchen.
What is Ricotta Cheese?
Ricotta is an Italian whey cheese made from sheep, cow, goat, or Italian water buffalo milk whey leftover from the production of cheese. Like other whey cheeses, it is made by coagulating the proteins that remain after the casein has been used to make cheese, notably albumin and globulin.
Ricotta ( actually means "recooked") protein that can be harvested when the whey is first allowed to become more acidic by additional fermentation (by letting it sit for 12–24 hours at room temperature). Then the acidified whey is heated to near-boiling. The combination of low pH along with a high temperature denatures the protein and causes it to precipitate, forming a fine curd. Once cooled, it is separated bypassing the liquid through a fine cloth, leaving the curd behind.
Ricotta curds are creamy-white and slightly sweet in taste. The fat content changes depending on the brand and the type of milk used. In this form, it is somewhat similar in texture to some cottage cheese, although considerably lighter. It is highly perishable. There are versions of ricotta cheese that are aged which gives the ricotta a longer shelf life.
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Easy Homemade Ricotta Cheese
Interesting stuff if you think about it. I think it's awesome we figured out how to create cheese from mother nature. And today we are going to take it to the next level and turn it into something really special, Ricotta Gnocchi With Asparagus Spears In Butter Sauce.
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Ricotta Gnocchi With Asparagus Spears In Butter Sauce
The asparagus is first blanched and shocked to preserve the color and the texture of the asparagus. Blanching and shocking are great techniques to become familiar with when dealing with vegetables.
Blanching and Shocking vegetables helps retains the vibrant color and texture.When you hear the words shock relating to cooking it means to submerge into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Preserving and learning the ways of really classic artisan cookery is something that is timeless and needs to be kept alive and taught to future generations.
How To Make Ricotta Gnocchi With Asparagus Spears In Butter Sauce
The first thing you want to do is take care of the asparagus. In this recipe, we are looking for the top parts of the asparagus only. Make a 45 degree cut about 2 inches below the top spear/floret.
Next, have a bowl of ice and water on the side ready to shock the asparagus to set the color and stop the cooking.
Cook 2 to 3 Minutes
Shaping the Gnocchi
You will want to use a spoon and your finger to make the nice pillow-shaped gnocchi's
Scoop some of the ricotta dough against the wall of the bowl
Use your finger to slide off of the spoon
The Perfect Chicken Stock
Few things better to use in the kitchen than homemade chicken stock. The addition of homemade chicken stock takes any dish to the next level. Really nothing from the grocery store compares, nothing, zip, zero. Want to know something about a store-bought chicken stock that might alarm you? Read my article here and watch the video.
The video covers making the chicken stock, the recipe is from my days in culinary school. Crazy good is all I can say.
Making The Sauce
Reduce homemade chicken stock by half and add butter and allow the butter to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- 1 ½ cups Ricotta Cheese - Drained
- ⅓ cup All-Purpose Flour
- 1 bunch Asparagus - use only the heads of the asparagus ( You can cut the spears in half to stretch your purchase )
- 1 Whole Egg
- 1 Egg Yolk
- 1 ¼ cup Parmesan Cheese
- ⅔ teaspoon Sea Salt
- ⅔ cup Homemade Chicken Stock - see article above for recipe
- 1 ½ tablespoon Butter
- 1 pinch Nutmeg
- Cut the asparagus tops off about 2 inches below the floret/flowering tops at a 45-degree angle. Cut on the bias.
- Cook the asparagus in boiling water for 2 to 3 minutes, then shock in ice water to stop the cooking process and to set the color
Making the Ricotta Gnocchi
- In a food processor add in the ricotta cheese ( Place ricotta in a strainer with a bowl underneath overnight to drain off excess water and for the best texture gnocchi dumpling )
- Then add in the one whole egg plus the additional egg yolk, add cheese, salt, nutmeg and blend together making sure to not over mix.
- Add ⅓ cup of flour, up to ½. Will depend on how wet the dough turns out. You will want the dough to be a little bit wet.
Shaping the Gnocchi
- Using a spoon, scrape gnocchi dough up the side of the bowl, flatting out the spoon to the bowl.
- Using your finger slide off the gnocchi dough onto a floured cookie sheet.
- Place in the refrigerator a minimum of 10 minutes set up/ firm up.
Cooking the Gnocchi
- Bring a pot of water to a soft boil and add 2 teaspoon of salt. Add one gnocchi to the water and cook till it floats and almost doubles in size. Pull one out and check for doneness.
- Add 1 cup of chicken stock to a pan and reduce by half, then add in butter, a pinch of nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and cook down till you like the consistency. You can always add more butter to help with consistency.
- Add the gnocchi to the butter sauce and coat the gnocchi. Do this as soon as the sauce is ready.
- You can add the asparagus spears to the sauce or plate them by hand for a nicer presentation.