Ricotta Gnocchi with Beef Bolognese



As a young girl I always stuck close to the cooks whether they were preparing the ingredients to be cooked or doing the cooking. One of my fondest memories is making gnocchi with my aunt, grandmother and mother. We would spend hours in our basement at a big round table rolling the gnocchi on the prongs of the fork to get that characteristic ridge effect. They mostly spoke Italian and, while I’m not fluent, I could understand some of it and I loved sitting there and listening to their conversations. After the gnocchi were made, they were cooked up to create a big family meal. My favourite way to eat gnocchi is with a beef Bolognese sauce like this ridiculously good one my aunt makes. Preparing the gnocchi and sauce from scratch seems like a lot of work but it’s actually really easy and so delicious. I hope you will try it! Recipe adapted from the original by Julie Miguel.


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Ricotta Gnocchi with Beef Bolognese



Ricotta Gnocchi

2 lb (1 kg) ricotta cheese

1 egg

1 egg yolk

⅔ cup (150 mL) ‘00’ flour, see Tip (approx)

1½ tsp (7 mL) salt

¼ tsp (1 mL) fresh ground pepper


Bolognese Sauce

3 tbsp (45 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped onion

1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped carrots

1 cup (250 mL) finely chopped celery

1 lb (500 g) Regular Ground Beef

Salt and fresh ground pepper

1¼ cups (300 mL) whole milk

⅛ tsp (0.5 mL) ground nutmeg

1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine

2 cups (500 mL) chopped canned tomatoes with juice

Water or unsalted beef broth (optional)

¼ cup (60 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese


  1. Ricotta Gnocchi: Meanwhile, drain ricotta using a cheesecloth bag or in a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for about 24 hours, until ricotta is very dry. Discard liquid.
  2. Transfer drained ricotta to a large bowl in a mound. Use your hands to form a well in the middle of the mound. Add egg and egg yolk to the well; gently mix with your hands.
  3. Sift ⅔ cup (150 mL) flour over the ricotta mixture and add salt and pepper. Gently combine with your hands until dough is just slightly sticky. Incorporate more flour if it feels too wet and sticky.
  4. Working with about a handful of dough at a time, place on a floured work surface and roll into a log about ¾ inch (4 cm) thick. With a floured knife, trim the ends of the log and discard. Cut the roll into equal pieces, each about 1 inch (2.5 cm) long. Roll each gnocchi over the tines of a fork to create a ridge effect. Transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet. (Gnocchi can be refrigerated, uncovered, for up to 24 hours.)
  1. Bolognese Sauce: Heat oil and butter over medium heat in a large, deep skillet. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Stir in carrots and celery until coated; cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes until the carrot and celery are slightly softened.
  2. Add beef, ½ tsp (2 mL) salt and ¼ tsp (1 mL) pepper; cook, stirring often and using the back of a wooden spoon to break up the meat into small chunks, for 8 to 10 minutes or until beef is browned. Drain, if necessary.
  3. Add milk and nutmeg; bring to a gentle simmer, stirring frequently. Add wine; simmer about 3 minutes until slightly reduced. Stir in tomatoes; bring to a simmer.
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for about 3 hours, stirring about every 30 minutes, until sauce is very thick and the fat separates out and floats on top of sauce. If mixture is looking dry while simmering and starts to stick, stir in ¼ cup (60 mL) water or broth whenever necessary.
  5. To cook gnocchi, lightly grease another baking sheet; set aside. In batches, add gnocchi to a large pot of boiling salted water; stir gently to prevent them from sticking together. Cook for about 2 minutes, until they float to the surface of the water, removing with a slotted spoon to greased sheet as they float. Repeat with remaining gnocchi allowing water to return to a boil between each batch.
  6. To serve, season Bolognese Sauce with salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked Ricotta Gnocchi to the hot sauce and stir gently to coat. Divide evenly among serving bowls and top each with cheese.


Tip: The ‘00’ flour used in the gnocchi is called “Tipo 00” when it is from Italy and can be called “00 Style” flour when produced outside of Italy. The 00 refers to the milling (grind) and is the finest textured flour available in Italy. It may also be labeled as pizza flour and/or pasta flour. This very finely milled flour absorbs liquid more easily than coarser ground flours (such as Canadian all-purpose) which makes for a very tender, soft gnocchi. It is available in specialty stores, well-stocked supermarkets and online.

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