Ricotta Gnocchi with Mushroom Spinach Sausage Ragout

Back in February, I attended a dinner party hosted by a wonderful downtown couple and catered by Martha Boggs of The Bistro at the Bijou. My favorite dish from that night was the ricotta gnocchi with cream sauce and rabbit ragout. I've eaten potato gnocchi plenty of times, but this was my first taste of ricotta gnocchi -- and I knew it was something that I'd want again soon.

Thankfully Martha is the type of chef that doesn't mind sharing her secrets, and she told us that ricotta gnocchi was really quite simple to make. "Just YouTube it," she said. So that's what I did, and sure enough I found lots of how-to videos reaffirming just how easy it is to make ricotta gnocchi. I also found this Epicurious recipe, which I followed (but not step-by-step because step-by-step isn't my style).

I mixed up the ricotta, eggs, cheese, bit of nutmeg, and flour in a big bowl. Then I took the dough ball and formed several dough "ropes" that I cut up into two-inch pieces. I boiled them in salted water, making sure to cook them in batches, and then set them in a colander to drain. 

I didn't toss them in a skillet with butter. I didn't add rosemary to them. But that's because I wanted to create my own ragout to go with the gnocchi.

I wanted something savory and a little sweet. Rabbit was out of the question because: (1) I'm not THAT good of a cook, and (2) where do I get rabbit? So I stuck with something that I was familiar with... Italian sausage. Using Italian sausage would also provide the dish with a little bit of heat. And I always like having some spice in my dishes.

I also knew I wanted to use mushrooms and spinach. Those two ingredients go perfectly together, and they go well with sausage. So I made a ragout with garlic, cremini mushrooms, spinach, crumbled Italian sausage, and tomato sauce. And I have to say, it turned out wonderfully. The ragout was hearty and flavorful, and I think it balanced well with the light ricotta gnocchi.

This dinner was surprisingly easy to make. And it wasn't as messy as I thought it would be. Me and flour usually means lots of post-dinner kitchen cleanup, but not this time. Plus, it didn't take long to make. I believe it was about an hour for the gnocchi to go from mixing bowl to plate. And the ragout could be made ahead of time, if needed.

I'm in love with ricotta gnocchi, and now I want to make a million variations on this dish. I think next time I'm going to incorporate spinach into the gnocchi. I also need to figure out what went into Martha's cream sauce from the dinner party night. The sauce was so good that I spooned and slurped it all up, leaving nothing behind. Which is expected of me, as I am the lifetime president of the Clean Plate Club.