I am going to skip all my usual flowery introductions (I just like to talk, okay??) and get right down to business on this one. Here are the important things you need to know about this recipe:
1.) It’s unbelievably delicious.
2.) It looks REALLY impressive.
3.) It’s actually really easy to make (and not ALL that time-consuming).
4.) You will feel like a bad-ass when you’re done making it. Because you are.
Pan-Fried Ricotta Gnocchi with Lamb Ragu
serves 4-6 as a main course
gnocchi recipe (barely adapted) from here
For the gnocchi:
15oz whole milk ricotta*
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup grated parmesan
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
4 T butter
2 cloves garlic, smashed
additional parmesan for garnish
For the ragu:
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1 large (or 2 smaller) carrots, cut into very fine dice
1 medium sweet onion, very fine dice
1/2 a large red bell pepper, very fine dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground lamb
2 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 cup dry red wine
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
3 T fresh parsley, minced
*If your ricotta is on the watery side, spoon it into a mesh strainer and set it over a bowl for an hour or two. This will give you a thicker, less wet base to begin with.
1.) To start, get the ragu going. Heat a pot over medium heat, and add the olive oil and butter. Once the pan is hot, add the carrots, onion, and bell pepper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Season with a small pinch each of salt and pepper.
2.) Move the vegetables to the side of the pot, and add the lamb. Season the lamb with a bit more salt and pepper, then break the lamb up with a spoon, and cook until the meat is no longer pink. Drain any excess fat from the pot.
3.) Add the celery salt, and the tomato paste. Stir until the tomato paste coats all the meat and vegetables, and cook for a minute or two, so the paste caramelizes a bit. Add the red wine, diced tomatoes, and the bay leaf, and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Immediately lower the heat and bring the mixture back to a simmer; cover partway with the lid, and simmer for about an hour, until the ragu is no longer watery, and has cooked down to a thick, rich sauce.
4.) While the ragu simmers, you can make the gnocchi. In a large bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Mix until thoroughly combined.
5.) Add the flour to the ricotta mixture, and stir until the flour is fully incorporated. Lightly flour your countertop, and turn the gnocchi dough out on to the counter. Pat it into one cohesive ball, and then cut into three equal pieces.
6.) Take each of the three pieces, and gently roll them into long ropes, about 1″ wide. Use a paring knife to cut the ropes into pieces about 1/2″ wide. Move the gnocchi to a parchment-lined baking sheet (be careful to lay them out in a single layer – they’ll be a bit tacky, and will definitely stick together).
7.) Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat, and melt two tablespoons of butter in the skillet. Add the two crushed gloves of garlic to the pan, to the infuse the butter.
8.) Add the first batch of gnocchi to the pan, setting them cut-side down, and leaving enough room between them to turn them easily. You will likely need to pan-fry them in 3 or 4 batches. Allow the gnocchi to cook on the first side for 2-3 minutes, until they’re golden brown, then flip and cook the second side until brown. Remove the gnocchi to a paper towel-lined plate, and continue with the rest of the gnocchi, adding more butter to the pan as needed.
9.) When the gnocchi are all fried, garnish them with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. Pile some gnocchi into the bottom of a bowl, and then top with a generous ladleful of lamb ragu. Sprinkle a bit of fresh parsley over the top.
Do you think it would be a problem if I ate ricotta gnocchi every day for the rest of my life? Because that’s the plan, at this point. For every dinner, every day, I will fry up a handful of pillowy, cheesy gnocchi, and then douse them with freshly grated parmesan cheese, pile them into a bowl, and eat them in bed while watching crappy reality TV. Because I’m an adult, and I can.
Okay, seriously… this meal was GOOD. The ragu is rich and hearty, but the gnocchi are light and airy and crispy on the outside, so they make a perfect pair. You could easily pair either component with something else – the ragu would be great with spaghetti, or spooned over some roasted potatoes. The gnocchi would be fantastic with a simple marinara sauce, or some browned butter with sage. But, I think you should try them together first, because I they’re kind of made for each other!
Go forth and impress your friends and family,
(Side note: If you find that the gnocchi recipe makes too much, you can easily freeze them. Just lay them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and pop them in the freezer for a couple hours. Once they’re pretty solid, you can load them into a ziploc freezer bag, and keep them until you’re ready for them! When you’re ready to make them, pan-fry them the same way – they’ll just need an extra minute or two.)