Friday, January 20, 2012

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel Ragout

This meal is a little involved.

I got the idea from a friend who said it was the best thing he ever ate (at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Las Vegas). While I'm hardly claiming to have made it that those standards, I did my best (with a Mario Batali recipe) and it did turn out very tasty.

Getting the gnocchi right was the most difficult part and the instructions were not very good in the recipe and I used part-skim ricotta to save some calories so I think the quality suffered slightly.

Overall, this was a really good "special occasion" dish. I did make it on a Tuesday, so you can too!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Sausage and Fennel Ragout
(from here)

1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casing and crumbled
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon red chile flakes (to taste)
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1 rib celery, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe follows (you can use regular canned/jarred sauce here to save a bunch of time)
Salt and pepper to taste
Ricotta gnocchi, recipe follows
Pecorino Romano, grated

Basic Tomato Sauce:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, chopped in 1/4 inch dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves, or 1 tablespoon dried
1/2 medium carrot, finely shredded
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
Salt, to taste

Ricotta Gnocchi:
1 1/2 pounds fresh goat-milk ricotta (I used part-skim)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, or as needed
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


I started by draining my ricotta.

Put it in a fine mesh strainer and put it over a bowl.

Cover with plastic wrap and stash in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.


Meanwhile, make your tomato sauce (if you are doing so - again, no harm here in using store-bought sauce).

Pour the 1/4 cup olive oil in a big pot and get it over medium heat.

Add your onions and garlic.

Cook for 5 minutes.

Add your carrots and thyme.

Cook for another 5 minutes.

Throw in the tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.

I wanted to make this batch smooth, so use your immersion blender to get it smooth. Yeah, I don't have an immersion blender, I used the food processor in 3 batches.

You can leave it chunky by all means. This was just my preference for this dish, today.

Remove from the heat, reserve 2 cups and save the rest for use with your favorite pastas. It's an awesome, simple sauce.


Toast your fennel seeds.

I ran out of fennel seeds (gasp!) so I subbed some star anise. It worked out fine.

Get a pan over med/high heat and toast the dry spices until you can smell them and they JUST start to turn brown.

Get them off the heat and into a grinder quickly.

I don't have a pic of the ground spices. Whoops. It's brown. Save it for later.


When your ricotta has drained you'll see the whey in the bottom of the bowl.

Add the 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

to the bowl.

I forgot the eggs.
Ensure that it is fully combined and add a bit of flour to make it less sticky.

This part was kind of a pain as the original recipe calls for "flour as needed". I probably added 1/4 cup extra. Just get it to a point where it'll hold together if you make it into a ball.

Vague, I know, sorry.

Toss this mixture in the fridge to firm up while you start the ragout.


Begin the ragout by removing the casing from the sausages.

Toss into a pan over med/high heat.

Prep your veggies.

(If you need help with fennel this video is short and informative)

When your sausage has browned, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon and reserve the fat.

I poured off most of it, but you need some for the vegetables.

Season with some salt and pepper, red chile flakes (to taste) and HALF of the ground fennel seeds.

Let these cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. You can let them go for longer if you want, just lower the heat a bit.

While my veggies were cooking, I started the gnocchi.

These are a little large than the typical gnocchi as they are quenelles.

Take two tablespoons and "cut" a heaping spoon full over and over until you get a neat football shape.

It won't be perfect.

As badly as you want it to be, they will never be perfect.

Drop into a pot of salted, boiling water.

They will cook for about 7 minutes and float to the top.

This is also tricky because you have to go in shifts and cut those quenelles really fast to make them finish at the same time.

If they over-cook, they'll be mushy. I over-cooked a few, don't worry.

Set aside when they are finished. I used lightly floured parchment.

Now, to finish the ragout.

Add the sausage back into the pan with the veggies.

Add 2 cups of your sauce and the rest of the ground fennel.

Stir to combine.

Heat the mixture until it comes up to temp. Check for salt.

Ok, this part was also kind of a pain. We want to cover the gnocchi in the sauce, but they are delicate and the sauce is really chunky.

I just pushed them over to one side and coated them in the liquid. It worked out ok.

Serve a heaping portion of the ragout topped with the heated through gnocchi on top.

Overall, this dish was worth the effort.

The vegetables were fresh tasting and just cooked and the sauce was sweet and delicious. The gnocchi added a great creamy element to the dish and complimented everything very well.

I loved the texture of the ragout and ate it up. While the meal was a little bit of a pain to make, it wasn't that bad for the great results.



  1. This looks fantastic. Have you also tried making a sweet potato gnocchi? Would love to see your take on it

  2. I actually made some just the other day! I'll take pics and post next time I make them.


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