Ricotta Gnocchi in Boston’s North End
There is nothing I love more than traditional Italian fare. No matter where I am, an authentic Italian meal can instantly transport me to my cousin Louise’s dinner table in New York, where my big Italian family often gathers around an exhaustive feast for no particular occasion other than for the sheer pleasure of eating and indulgence.
On a recent trip to Boston on behalf of client Bella Sera Wines, I had the pleasure of dining at Nebo in the city’s North End. Of the many dishes our group shared, my favorite was the gnocchi (pronounced similar to “no-key”) in a sweet tomato basil sauce, paired with a glass of Bella Sera’s Pinot Grigio.
I’ve always been a fan of gnocchi, often defending the density of the dumplings while others put them down as simply a bunch of dough balls lacking flavor. In my mind, it’s all in the consistency and the compliments of the sauce, and Nebo’s version was like no other. The secret, I later learned from owners and sisters Carla and Christine Pallotta, is that theirs is made with ½ ricotta cheese and ½ white flour. Never having made gnocchi myself, a quick online search produced many ricotta gnocchi recipes, so I offer this one from All Recipes in honor of the wonderfully exhaustive feast I enjoyed in the little Italy of Boston.
1 (8 ounce) container ricotta cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup all-purpose flour, or as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 (15.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes
6 basil leaves, shredded
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into small chunks
Stir together the ricotta cheese, eggs, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, and garlic powder in a large bowl until evenly combined. Mix in 1 cup of flour. Add additional flour if needed to form a soft dough.
Divide the dough into 3 or 4 pieces, and roll into ½-inch-thick ropes on a floured surface. Cut each rope into 1-inch pieces, and place on a lightly floured baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in garlic, and cook until softened and fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in diced tomatoes, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in shredded basil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
While sauce is simmering, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil the gnocchi until they float to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes, and then drain.
To assemble the dish, stir the cubed mozzarella cheese into the sauce and allow the heat of the sauce to soften, but not melt the cheese. Place gnocchi into a serving bowl, and spoon sauce over the top.
And, if you’re in Boston visit Nebo:
90 N Washington St.
Boston, MA 02114