Pesto & Ricotta Gnocchi with Spicy Tomato Sauce

A long, long time ago, when our budget for fun far outstripped our budget for Amazon Prime diaper delivery services, I planned a little bachelorette party for my BFF, Jessica. And because we both have the same definition of fun, i.e. pasta, cheese, and wine, a cooking class was in order.

Now I know how to make pasta out of cheese.  Serve this with a glass of red wine and just tell me you’re not having fun.  I dare you.



for the gnocchi

  • 15 oz container whole milk ricotta cheese, drained
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 cup pesto
  • pinch salt
  • pinch white pepper (black pepper also works)
  • optional – very small pinch nutmeg
  • fresh chopped herbs – parsley or basil
  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (a bit more if the dough is too wet)
  1. Stir together ricotta, pesto, eggs, cheese, salt, pepper – and if desired – a very small pinch of nutmeg.  Very slowly add the flour, stirring gently to form a soft, wet dough.
  2. On a well floured surface, divide the dough in half, and then in half again.  Roll out a quarter of the dough into long rope and then cut crosswise into one inch pieces.  If you want little ridges, press each gnocchi with the back of a fork.  Stick them on a piece of parchment paper (to avoid them sticking) while you turn to the next section of dough.
  3. Repeat step 2 with the next section of dough – two ropes is probably more than enough for two people, so feel free to freeze the rest.
  4. Bring salted water to a boil in a deep skillet (to give you more surface area) and drop each gnocchi in individually, taking care not to drop them on each other.  They will sink to the bottom, rising to the top when they’re done (about five minutes or so per batch).
  5. Lift out cooked gnocchi with slotted spoon and proceed to the next batch.  Serve with tomato sauce below.


for the spicy tomato sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 red or sweet onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • crushed red peppers
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • pinch sugar
  • a few sprigs basil
  • optional – big scoop of pesto
  1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook down 3-4 minutes; add garlic and cook another minute or two.  Add crushed red peppers – as much as you can stand!
  2. Add tomato paste, red wine, and tomatoes.  Stir the whole thing together and cook a few minutes.
  3. Add salt, pepper, sugar, basil and pesto, if using.  Bring to a boil, and then cover, simmering over low heat about 30 minutes.  Discard sprigs of basil before serving over the gnocchi.


The Verdict:

This was a veritable party in our mouths…all fun & games until the Little Man woke up.  But no worries – we have more gnocchi dough in the freezer!



Everything But The…Pesto

So, I won’t be making candy cane kiss cookies for my co-workers.  I sort of had a hunch that would happen.

I have now consumed two entire bags of these delicious, addictive, terrible-for-you candy cane kisses.  My only hope is that this will now hold off my insatiable craving until next year’s holiday season.  My co-workers will be getting pumpkin bread instead, the recipe for which I will not be posting here, as I rely heavily on a Trader Joe’s mix (sssh).

While that bakes, I’m hungry for dinner.  And there are a lot of leftovers – not all of them pulled chicken – in the fridge.  I’m talking broccoli, not just tired but exhausted looking herbs, and zested lemons.  This will all go bad in a few days…which means it’s food processor time.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Pesto

  • whole wheat spaghetti
  • 2-3 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup basil
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, stems included
  • 1 cup arugula (both for the peppery taste and to offset the very tired basil’s color!)
  • about 4 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as you see fit
  • 3 garlic cloves (let’s be honest, I used more than that, but I guess not everyone is into that sort of thing)
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 1 big handful Parmesan cheese
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon zest
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • crushed red pepper
  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook your pasta according to directions.  Drain, reserving at least one cup of the starchy water.
  2. Microwave your broccoli florets for 2-3 minutes.  Combine broccoli and the rest of the ingredients (through crushed red pepper) in a food processor and pulse until it starts to resemble a sauce.
  3. Slowly add the reserved pasta water and keep pulsing until sauce gets to your desired consistency.
  4. Don’t be fooled: this is not an exact science, or an exact recipe.  Keep playing with the ingredients until the pesto tastes right – more salt? more olive oil? more cheese? – to you.  Serve, well mixed, with pasta.
fighting off all the vampires tonight.
fighting off all the vampires tonight.

The Verdict:

This is a go-to for using up leftover vegetables and herbs.  You can make with almost any combination of things you have already in your fridge, and if you don’t use too much olive oil (or cheese), it actually feels like you’re doing ok health-wise.  You can also freeze pesto – pop it into a ziploc bag, snip off one corner, squeeze into ice cube trays, and cover with saran wrap.  That way, you can use one (or two, or three) cubes without having to chip it off a frozen solid block.  Presto pesto.