Gnocchi are soft pillows of mashed potatoes mixed with flour but in modern times there are many different varieties of gnocchi substituting or adding to the potatoes other vegetables such as pumpkin, carrot, spinach, etc.
Ricotta Gnocchi are another variety which substitute the potatoes with Ricotta cheese instead of a vegetable. Thanks to the flour and eggs which hold the gnocchi together, you’ll have soft and creamy gnocchi which you can serve with tomato sauces or the classic butter and sage.
I’m really passionate about gnocchi – just as much as pasta – and I love to experiment new flavors in the shape of round soft pillows. This was the first time that I tried Ricotta gnocchi (although they’re already popular in Italy and can be found in some restaurants) and I decided to serve them with this particular sauce which is a classic sauce in Tuscany.
So let me also tell you about this sauce: in Italian it’s called “Sugo Scappato” which can be translated into “Runaway ragout”. Why “runaway”? Because it’s practically a meatless Bolognese sauce (Bolognese sauce is called Ragout/Ragù in the rest of Italy since there are many different varieties) so it’s intended as if the meat ran away from the sauce (Italians are typically known for naming traditional food with funny names).
Sugo Scappato is mostly made in Tuscany where it is also called Sugo Finto (fake ragout) and it was originally made by peasants who could not afford the meat to make the classic ragout.
Since there is no meat in the sauce, I decided to keep the veggies a little bit chunkier to give some texture but you might as well finely chop them or blend them to get a velvety tomato sauce.
This sauce goes particularly well with these Ricotta gnocchi but you can also serve it with pasta or even spread it on a slice of bread to have yummy Tuscan crostini for an appetizer.
Ricotta Gnocchi with meatless Bolognese sauce
For the Gnocchi
- 250 g 1 cup Ricotta cheese
- 1 Egg
- 60 g 3/4 Parmesan cheese
- 125 g 4 oz All Purpose flour
- Ground Nutmeg
- Salt & Pepper
For the meatless Bolognese sauce
- 1/2 cup diced Yellow Onion
- 1/3 cup diced Carrot
- 1/3 cup diced Celery stick
- 1/3 glass Red Wine
- 5-6 Basil leaves
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 can 400g / 14oz Peeled whole tomatoes
- Olive Oil
- Salt & Pepper
- To make the sauce, drizzle abundant olive oil in a pan and fry lightly the chopped onion, carrot and celery. Add the wine and let it evaporate, then add the tomatoes.
- Season with salt, pepper and rosemary and add the bay leaf. Turn the heat to low and let it simmer for at least 30 minutes stirring once in while and breaking the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. If necessary, add a little bit of vegetable stock.
- Meanwhile prepare the gnocchi mixing together the drained Ricotta cheese, the beaten egg, the Parmesan cheese; add the sifted flour a little bit at a time while mixing with a fork and season with nutmeg, salt, pepper.
- When it becomes thicker, mix with your hands and add more flour until the mixture gets a dough consistency and it's not sticky anymore. (It could be more or less flour than indicated in the ingredient list. It depends on the amount of liquid in the Ricotta and on the dimension of the egg).
- Divide the dough in equal parts and with your hands roll it on a wooden cutting board dusted with flour until you get a thick roll (about 2cm thick). With a sharp knife chop the roll into cubes and roll them in your palms to get small balls or ovals (you can choose the dimension of your gnocchi although they should not be much bigger than 2.5cm/1 inch)
- Dust the gnocchi with flour if they stick again and set them aside to rest on a clean cloth.
- Bring to boil a large pan of salted water and throw in the gnocchi one by one so they don't stick together. As soon as they float on the surface they're ready; pick them up with a skimmer and add them to the sauce.
- Add the basil leaves to the sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes then serve.