Tarragon Ricotta Gnocchi
This year my tub of tarragon did very well and is still looking great with soft fronds one would expect at the start of spring. This delicious aniseed flavoured herb is wonderful paired with chicken, fish, eggs, tomatoes and spring vegetables but I did begin to wonder how I could use more of it and decided on mixing it through ricotta gnocchi instead of the more usual addition of cooked spinach. Ricotta gnocchi are an easy gnocchi to make there being no need to cook potatoes or semolina as with other gnocchi versions. It is simply a matter of buying some ricotta and drying it out a little, either by draining in a sieve over a bowl for a few hours in the fridge or if you have no time blotting it well with some paper towel to extract as much liquid as possible. The reason for doing this is so you don’t need to add too much flour to the mix to absorb that moisture; just enough to bind the mix and keep it very light in texture. Adding cooked spinach that is too wet similarly adds moisture but adding lots of chopped tarragon is perfect as it is dry and so much more flavoursome. I opted for a confit eggplant sauce; small dice of eggplant cooked slowly with olive oil over a smear of puréed fresh tomato but these tarragon gnocchi would also be perfect with a fresh or smoked salmon creamy sauce.
Tarragon Ricotta Gnocchi
- 375 g tub ricotta
- 1 whole egg
- approximately 100 g plain flour
- 100 g Parmesan, grated
- 4 tbs chopped tarragon leaves
- pinch salt
Confit Eggplant Sauce
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 red banana capsicum, sliced (optional)
- 1 medium eggplant
- olive oil
To Prepare The Gnocchi: Drain the ricotta by placing it in a sieve over a bowl and leaving it in the fridge for a couple of hours or alternatively blot it dry with several layers of paper towel. Place the flour in a large bowl and mix through the salt and chopped tarragon. Add the ricotta, Parmesan and the egg and mix the egg into the ricotta with a fork and then gradually mix the egg and cheeses through the flour. Don’t over mix, just bring it all together and tip it out onto a clean bench and gently roll into a large 5 cm thick sausage. Dust with flour. Cut off 2 cm slices, rolling each into a smaller sausage the thickness of gnocchi and then cut up into gnocchi sized little pillows. Do this with a pastry scraper if you have one, otherwise use a knife. Place on a floured tray, covered with a tea towel until ready to use.
To make the confit eggplant sauce: If you have a sauté pan that has a lid and can go in the oven then use it to make this sauce. Otherwise use a heavy based baking dish. Heat a tablespoon of olive in the pan and sauté the onion until soft but not browned. Add the chopped tomato and the sliced capsicum and cook for 5-10 minutes, until softened. Scrape the cooked vegetables into a deep bowl and blitz with a stick blender. Dice the eggplant into small 1 cm dice. Scrape the puréed vegetables back into the pan and spread it to cover the base. Place the diced eggplant over the top, drizzle well with olive oil and season. Place the lid on the pan or cover and seal a baking dish with foil and bake at 160°C for 1 hour.
Bringing it all together: Bring a large pasta pot of water to the boil with a pinch of salt. Add the gnocchi to the water and when they rise to the surface scoop them out and put them straight into the pan with the eggplant and gently stir to coat the gnocchi. Serve immediately with some grated Parmesan cheese.