Way back when I first moved to NYC, I loved the East Village. There seemed to be a new (tiny) cool (crowded) bar or restaurant on every block and I wanted to visit each one. However, making plans to go to these hot spots on a Saturday night meant literally hours of waiting time to get in, and none took reservations. Enter The Smith. It had a hip vibe, outfitted with subway tiles and dim lighting, but was about twice the size of most of the other restaurants, meaning most of the time we only had to wait a little while. Plus it also had a bar (a perk of being a larger than average East Village restaurant), so we could wait there until our table was ready.
Every time my friends and I went to The Smith there was an unspoken agreement that the meal would start off with the toasted ricotta gnocchi. Every time. Soft pillows of ricotta with an unexpected cheesy crunch – these things were just that good.
Years passed, my main The Smith girlfriend moved to LA, and I stopped hanging out in the East Village. I had all but forgotten about the gnocchi when I saw The Smith had opened another location on the sleepy old Upper West Side. I’m happy to be back in the gnocchi habit again.
I’d had these so many times I was a little unsure I could get them right at home. First the dough came out a little too wet. I compensated by piping the gnocchi directly into boiling water, which worked perfectly. Then it seemed impossible that heavy cream and butter with a touch of parmesan could turn into the sauce I’d never really noticed, but somehow it did. Don’t hold back on this recipe – it really captures comfort in the best sense of the word.
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup grated Parmesan, plus extra for sprinkling on top
- 2 cups whole milk ricotta (equal to 1 1lb container)
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
- 1/4 teaspoon truffle oil
- Combine dry ingredients (flour, salt, parmesan) in a large bowl and stir in ricotta.
- Add eggs and mix until combined.*
- Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil.
- Turn dough out onto floured work space.
- Divide into 4 pieces and roll each into a 1 inch thick rope. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, cut 1 inch pieces of gnocchi, making sure all are around the same size.
- Transfer gnocchi to a floured baking tray until ready to cook.
- Using a spatula, fill a large plastic bag with the dough (turning down the opening as shown in the video makes it much less messy), pushing the dough to one corner of the bag and squeezing out any air bubbles. Cut off a corner of the bag.
- Using kitchen shears, pipe dough directly over water, cutting off about an inch at a time. Take care not to cut the plastic bag itself. Fill pot with gnocchi in batches so not to overcrowd.
- Cook gnocchi until floating and cooked through (test one by cutting in half to be sure), about 3-4 minutes. Drain from water.*
- In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat cream over medium heat until boiling. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced in half.
- Add butter and parmesan and cook until melted and combined. Set aside.
- Heat a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add olive oil.
- Add gnocchi and cook until browned, turning once. Remove from heat.
- Top gnocchi with sauce to taste (start by adding half the sauce and taste; add more depending on taste) and a few drops of truffle oil (less is more!).
- Serve hot, garnished with grated Parmesan.
*Ideally the dough should be dry enough to pipe or form the gnocchi on a baking tray. Keep this in mind at the mixing step - add a little more flour if the dough is too sticky or wet. Or just plan on using the piping method described in the recipe.
*You can blanch gnocchi at this point by transferring directly into a bowl of ice water. Drain and refrigerate (or freeze on a baking tray and when frozen, transfer to a plastic freezer bag) until ready to serve. Submerge in boiling water until just heated through, drain, and sauté.