It’s that magical time of year when tomatoes come into their own. They are so juicy, sweet and flavorful they trigger a sort of high. Well, they do in me anyway, I tend to get giddy in a ripe tomato’s presence. I think what I find so striking about in-season tomatoes is how different they are from the hothouse duds I eat the rest of the year. These vine-ripened, sunshine-rich tomatoes taste almost like a different species. They have a sweetness and a grassiness that you never find in a mid-November beefsteak. In-season tomatoes are never mealy and watery. And every inch of them screams “Tomato!” at full volume in surround sound. So what do you do with these supersonic tomatoes? As little as possible. So, allow me to introduce you to my Ricotta Gnocchi with Raw Tomato Sauce.
I’ve made gnocchi for this here blog before. You may remember this buttercup take from my early days. I remember them being absolutely delicious, nutty and perfectly comforting. But I also remember them taking time. The thing about potato and squash-based gnocchi recipes is you have to roast some root vegetables. Not a particularly appetizing prospect when you’re facing 80% humidity. Well, I can tell you these Ricotta Gnocchi blissfully sidestep that inconvenience.
I’d never tried my hand at Ricotta Gnocchi before. Sure, I’d made the much more time-intensive gnudi but not the straight-ahead gnocchi. So, when I started my research I actually got nervous because they seemed so simple. How can something so good and so coveted be so simple? It doesn’t seem possible, considering the amount of excitement the phrase “homemade ricotta gnocchi” coaxes out of people. But, I can tell you, having made them, that ricotta gnocchi are indeed as simple as they say.
The process involved in making the gnocchi is a little white knuckle. The dough will look like it’s not going to come together. It will seem too sticky and then too soft but with a good amount flour and a light touch, you can form these fluffy, cheesy pillows of bliss without breaking a sweat. All that ricotta gnocchi requires is ricotta, an egg, seasonings and a little flour. I mean, these guys are mostly cheese and when you have a mostly cheese dough you kind of expect it to go mostly wrong. But they didn’t. It’s a cheese miracle! So, have confidence when forming these guys and a measuring cup of flour at the ready. You’ll be golden. Trust me!
So, that’s the gnocchi, now let’s talk sauce. Okay, I know what you’re thinking and no, I’m not trying to sell you on a raw food diet. You’ll notice that this Raw Tomato Sauce is perched atop a bowl of *cooked* cheesy carbs, so def not raw-food-diet-friendly. Raw Tomato Sauce is actually a very common pasta topping often made in the summer and frequently found in Tuscany. As the name suggests, the sauce is not cooked. The sauce is instead left to marinate for 2-3 hours, allowing the tomatoes to molt their juices and form a thin sauce with a substantial amount of olive oil, garlic, and fresh basil. This is THE sauce to make when you have good, fresh tomatoes.
Most traditional recipes call for the tomatoes to peeled and seeded before being added to the sauce. But classless rebels, like myself, totally skip this step. I know a lot of people find the skin interrupts the texture of the sauce and yes, I know the seeds are slightly bitter, but I don’t really care. I figure if I can eat the whole tomato when it’s served bruschetta-style, I can eat a whole tomato here. Also, I was lazy. If you aren’t lazy and averse to bitter seeds, by all means, skin and seed your tomatoes.
Even if you do seed your tomatoes, there is nothing difficult about this recipe. Stop laughing! I know I say that all the time about recipes I really have no business saying it about, but I really mean it this time! Yes, you’re technically making gnocchi from scratch but it’s, like, easy gnocchi. And the sauce! The sauce is essentially an interlude of chopping followed by some extremely chill waiting. You got this. You so got this!
So, that’s the deal with this late summer delight. Honestly, don’t start thinking about the joys of pumpkin, squash and other such gords until you’ve fully experienced and loved all that tomato season has to offer. There is so much juicy goodness left in this season, let it shine by doing as little as goddamn possible.
Ricotta Gnocchi with Raw Tomato Sauce
Raw Tomato Sauce
- 5-6 medium heirloom tomatoes diced fine
- 1 pint multi-colored cherry tomatoes diced fine
- 1/2 white onion diced fine
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1/4 fresh basil chiffonade
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste optional
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 475 g 17 oz good quality ricotta
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1/2 cup parmesan shredded
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
For the Tomato Sauce
- Place the tomatoes, onion, garlic and basil in a large bowl and toss to combine.
- In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, salt and anchovy paste (if using) together. Pour the mixture over the tomato mixture and toss to coat.
- Transfer the bowl to the fridge and let marinate for 2-3 hours.
- When you're 15 minutes away from serving, take the sauce out of the fridge and let it return to room temperature.
For the Gnocchi
- Place the ricotta in a bowl lined with two layers of cheese cloth. Gather the edges of the cheese cloth together to form a bundle. Squeeze the bundle to force out any excess moisture in the cheese.
- Once the cheese has expelled most of it's moisture, transfer it to a large bowl. Add the garlic, egg, parmesan, salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Start introducing the flour to the cheese mixture in 1/4 cup increments while stirring constantly. When a soft dough begins to form, transfer it to an extremely well-floured surface. Knead the dough, continuously, adding more flour, until the dough is firm enough to shape. Don't add too much flour or the dough will be tough. You want the dough to still be soft, so use a light hand.
- Divide the dough into 8 sections. Roll each of sections out into long snakes. Using a bench scraper, cut the snakes into a series of little pillow-like shapes about a 1/2 an inch wide. Transfer the gnocchi to a well-floured baking sheet and continue with each remaining sections.
- When the gnocchi is cut, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water liberally and add the gnocchi. Cook the gnocchi until it floats to the surface, about 3 minutes.
- Drain and rinse the gnocchi in hot water.
- Pour the hot gnocchi into a large serving platter. Top the pasta with the raw tomato sauce and garnish with fresh basil leaves and shredded parmesan cheese. Serve the pasta family style with a good, cheap red. This is low key at it's best, no need to get fancy.