The days are getting shorter and colder, and I’m starting to crave those warm and comforting dishes that scream wintertime, like these ricotta gnocchi in vodka sauce. Making both the gnocchi and sauce from scratch is certainly a project, but I’m not opposed to more time in the kitchen when it includes the luscious smells of tomato and cream and promises a delicious, nearly gourmet meal afterward. My vodka sauce is lighter than traditional ones, using half-and-half in place of cream and doing away with the butter. I promise you won’t miss anything in terms of flavor or texture, especially when paired with something as decadent as gnocchi.
Why make ricotta gnocchi?
Gnocchi made from ricotta might surprise you; these pillowy dumplings are more often made with potatoes. I prefer to make ricotta gnocchi because they come together much more easily (no boiling or mashing potatoes here!) and usually turn out even fluffier than their potato counterparts. You only need four ingredients to make these gnocchi: ricotta, eggs, flour, and salt. You simply mix the ricotta, eggs, and salt together and gradually add flour until you have a workable dough. Form the dough into logs, cut, and voila! Pop into boiling water for a few minutes and you have yourself restaurant-quality gnocchi.
There are just a couple secrets to getting the fluffiest gnocchi:
- Strain your ricotta. Allowing the excess water to drain out means you’ll have to use less flour to make the dough.
- Less flour = lighter gnocchi. 3/4 to 1 cup flour should be plenty for this recipe. It can be tempting to add more if the dough is still sticky, but it will come together more as you roll it out into logs and continue with shaping.
If you want to stop there for a simple meal, these gnocchi are great tossed with olive oil and cheese (see my guide on these key ingredients here) or brown butter and some sage. Serve alongside my spinach salad with lemon dressing and parmesan and call it a night. But if you want something a bit more decadent, read on…
How to make the vodka sauce
I will admit that I’m not clear on the origins of vodka sauce. It’s more an Italian-American dish than an Italian one, but regardless of its authenticity, I know one thing: fresh marinara sauce with cream and vodka is delicious. Simmer some onions, celery, carrots, and garlic with a can of crushed tomatoes and some herbs (and a leftover Parmigiano rind, if you have one lying around). Next use an to smooth out the sauce, add some vodka, cream (or in our case, half-and-half), and parmigiano, simmer a bit more, and enjoy! Swapping the traditional heavy cream with half-and-half results in a vodka sauce that won’t weigh you down and doesn’t sacrifice much in the way of flavor or texture; you’re left with ricotta gnocchi in vodka sauce that is fit for a restaurant.
If you make this recipe, please do let me know by leaving a comment and rating below! The comments help other readers find my recipes, and they keep me going!Print
Ricotta Gnocchi in Vodka Sauce
Make these decadent, creamy ricotta gnocchi in vodka sauce as the days get shorter and colder. Swapping heavy cream with half-and-half results in a lighter sauce that lacks nothing in flavor.
- Prep Time: 45 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour
- Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes (45 minutes active)
- Yield: 4 servings plus extra vodka sauce 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian American
For the vodka sauce
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 rib celery, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, no salt added
- 5 basil leaves, plus more for garnishing
- 2 bay leaves
- Parmigiano rind (optional)
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/2 cup good vodka
- 1/2 cup grated parmigiano, plus more for garnishing
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the gnocchi
- 1 15 oz container unsalted ricotta (see notes)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- About 1 cup all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- Generous pinch of salt
Preparation, if making both gnocchi and sauce
- Transfer the ricotta into a small strainer over sink or bowl and allow to release excess water while you begin the sauce.
- Generously flour a large baking sheet and set aside.
- Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high flame and add onion, carrot, and celery. Season generously with salt and pepper and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add crushed tomatoes, basil, bay leaves, and parmigiano rind, if using.
- Cover and allow to simmer on low heat until thick, about one hour. Remove the lid toward the last twenty minutes of simmering to allow to reduce.
- Remove bay leaves and parmigiano rind. Remove from heat and use an immersion blender to blend sauce until smooth.
- Stir in half-and-half, vodka, and parmigiano. Simmer on low at least 10 minutes or until gnocchi are ready. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Meanwhile, bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil.
- On a large work surface or in a large bowl, combine ricotta, eggs, and salt.
- Using a fork or a fork and a spoon (the dough will be too sticky at first to use your hands), mix in about 1/4 cup flour at a time until you have a very sticky dough that holds its shape when you form it into a ball.
- On a well-floured work surface, use floured hands to roll portions of the dough into logs about 12 inches long and about half an inch thick. Cut into inch-long pieces and transfer to floured baking sheet, ensuring that the gnocchi do not touch each other.
- Use your thumb or index finger to make an indentation on each dumpling, which will allow the sauce to stick better. Lightly flour the tops of the gnocchi.
- Carefully transfer the gnocchi to the boiling water and stir immediately so that they do not stick to each other. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until most of the gnocchi have risen to the top. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.
- Strain the gnocchi and transfer back to pot. Add desired amount of vodka sauce — you will have leftover sauce.
- Transfer into bowls and garnish with basil leaves, more parmigiano, and freshly ground pepper if desired.
- Choosing ricotta: Try to avoid ricotta labeled as creamy. The coarser the ricotta the better, as it will hold less water and require less flour to make a dough. This results in fluffier dumplings.
- Dough tips: Don’t get discouraged if the dough is still very sticky after a cup of flour. Use a well floured work surface and add just a little more flour as you roll each log out, and you’ll see the dough come together.
- Making gnocchi ahead: You can make the gnocchi ahead of time and store in the fridge for a day or the freezer for much longer. Make sure that the gnocchi are not stored on top of one another; a sheet pan is ideal for the fridge. If freezing, first freeze on a sheet pan and then transfer to freezer bags and store flat. Cook from frozen.