The recipes I’ve shared here over the past month have given measurements and detailed instructions, but it is trusting your intuition there in the moment which will give you the best results. I hope some of my daily rituals become yours too.
My final recipe to share is a light, ricotta gnocchi in a summer tomato sauce.
Little ricotta dumplings served in a bright, summery sauce made from cherry tomatoes is pure heaven to me. The gnocchi are quick to make, and the sauce requires very little attention – which makes it a great option on warm days. Buy the reddest and most flavourful tomatoes you can find, or better still, use homegrown. I would also recommend making your own ricotta for the gnocchi, but if you’re short on time, buy good-quality firm ricotta. Anything labelled ‘smooth’ that comes in a container will be far too watery. This sauce is not only great with gnocchi, but also with spaghetti, penne or paccheri (a large tubular pasta from Campania and Calabria), as we ate it in Italy. I sometimes use it as pizza sauce, too.
For the RICOTTA GNOCCHI
400 g fresh full-fat ricotta
2 egg yolks
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
45 g parmesan, grated
100–200 g tipo 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
sea salt and black pepper
For the sauce
750 g cherry tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
large handful of basil leaves
60 ml (1/4 cup) extra-virgin olive oil
grated parmesan, to serve
To make the gnocchi dough, combine the ricotta, egg yolks, nutmeg and parmesan in a large bowl and mix with your hands or a wooden spoon to combine. Gradually add the flour, mixing well after each addition, until the mixture comes together into a soft ball. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour, a little at a time, until you have the right consistency. Season well with salt and pepper.
Cut the dough into quarters and, working with one piece at a time, roll into a sausage shape about 1.5 cm in diameter, dusting the bench with a little flour as needed. Using a knife or a pastry scraper, cut the dough into 2 cm lengths to form the gnocchi. Set the gnocchi on a tray lightly dusted with our and repeat with the remaining dough.
For the sauce, place the cherry tomatoes, garlic and basil in a large frying pan. Drizzle over the olive oil and season generously with salt. Place the pan over a low heat and cook for 30–40 minutes or until
the tomatoes have completely collapsed. During the first 5 minutes, stir quite regularly, as there won’t be any liquid in the pan yet. Soon enough, the tomatoes will burst their skins and release their juices. If there are some stubborn tomatoes that haven’t burst after 20 minutes or so, help them along by squishing them against the side of the pan using the back of a wooden spoon.
Bring a large saucepan of generously salted water to the boil and, when the sauce is nearly ready, cook the gnocchi for 2–3 minutes or until cooked through. Once they float to the top, I allow them to cook for a further 30 seconds before removing them. Test one after 2 minutes – if it’s still dense and floury, cook for a little longer, then test again.
Drain the gnocchi, reserving the pasta water, and add to the sauce. Add 60–125 ml (1/4 – 1/2 cup) of pasta water as needed, stir to coat and simmer for a few minutes.
Season to taste and serve immediately, topped with grated parmesan.
‘Ostro‘ by Julia Busuttil-Nishimura is published in paper-back (AUD$44.99) or e-book ($17.99) by Pan Macmillan’s lifestyle imprint, Plum. It is also available at all good bookstores, and for orders outside Australia Readings ship internationally.