October 17, 2021

Gnocchi Nostalgia with Alex Vollono

This recipe is for a simple ricotta gnocchi. It is not traditional but it is still delicious, especially paired with freshly made pesto!

Back Story:

One day I asked Alex (friend/assistant hybrid) what he would like to learn how to make. Gnocchi with pesto sauce was first on his list.

I was looking forward to this particularly because basil pesto is something my Mom would make time and time again. She made it every summer because the basil in her garden grew so rapidly.

I didn’t think much further than that though.

All I knew was I wanted to give it the effort and excitement that any food request deserved.

I had no idea the connection between Alex and the depth of what the dish meant for him.

We made it together and finally dug in, shared it with others, and had some laughs throughout the night.

It was simply, a feeling of being happy to live in the moment with good food and good company.

A great Italian expression I learned is: A tavola non si invecchia. In other words, you don’t age while eating food at the table. Therefore, enjoy life to the fullest, especially at the dining table!

Though, later on that night, after Alex left, I was taken aback by his text:

Alex’s Text:

“Monique I honestly can’t thank you enough for today. I wanted to say this when I was there but I was worried that I would honestly start crying because it means so much to me. But just so you know I have a really strong connection with gnocchi pasta and my dad because it was his favorite pasta and being able to learn how to make it today and being able to re-create the recipe that I connect so well with him on, it just absolutely meant the world to me and I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am to you for just being in my life and teaching me these new skills and just thank you thank you thank you. Being able to cook and eat that pasta today just reminded me so much of him and it made me feel really close and have it and it’s a feeling that I don’t get often and I just am so thankful to you for helping me achieve that.”

(I’m not crying, you’re crying!)


Gnocchi Nostalgia

Ricotta Gnocchi with Basil Pesto Ingredients

  • 2 cups (16 oz.) whole milk ricotta (as fresh as possible)
  • 1 cup freshly, fine grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (I like to use a microplane for the fluffiest results. Keep in mind the cheese aerates when finely grating it so try to think about weight versus volume.)
  • 3 large egg yolks (preferably organic and local)
  • 1 Tbs freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1-2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 cups Italian 00 flour (more or less depending how quickly it comes together)
  • 2 cups Pesto Sauce
  • 1/4 cup cold ricotta or heavy cream


  1. In a large mixing bowl add the ricotta, cheese, egg yolks, black pepper and sea salt. Mix until evenly combined then add 1 cup of the flour. Add more if needed, but feel it out as you go. It should be slightly tacky yet able to hold its own when gently rolled with the flour. Be swift, but gentle.
  2. Cut the dough into four quarters and shape each section into a long cigar shape, about 3/4” thickness. Afterwards, use a sharp, floured knife or bench scraper and portion the pieces into 3/4” length by pressing the blade downwards in one swipe (wiping the blade as you go to help prevent sticking). During this process, the pieces will puff up into pillows as the blade squishes the dough upwards (SO satisfying!).
  3. By now, you should have a crowd of pillows. (If you’d like, you can flour your fingertips and press your into the center of the gnocchi. This makes a small well to hold more sauce. Another option is to roll the pieces against a ridged board or beneath a fork. The texture of the gnocchi helps the sauce to cling to it.)
  4. Next, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the gnocchi, then give a little stir to prevent the pieces sticking together. Allow to simmer for about 1-2 minutes or until they begin to float. Use a slotted spoon to strain and transfer to a plate, allowing the pieces to steam-dry for 30 seconds or so.
  5. Meanwhile, prep a large skillet to medium heat with the pesto, then add the gnocchi and ricotta (or cream). Sauté for about 3-5 minutes or just until the sauce marries to the gnocchi.
  6. Finally, serve, garnish, and most importantly, ENJOY!


  • When rolling the gnocchi, fear not! It is better for the dough to be stickier versus tough. Overworking the dough prevents the gnocchi from the ultimate pillowy fluffiness. (Keep in mind the gnocchi also firms up when boiling.)  The objective is to avoid developing too much gluten. We want to avoid developing a gummy texture. This is also why the Italian 00 flour is important.  This type of flour is finer yet stronger than American versions, which makes it better overall.)
  • As a rule of thumb, the quality of the ingredients matter. This is a simple recipe but the technique and type of ingredients make a difference, taste and texture wise!
  • The use of extra ricotta or heavy cream helps to control the cooking process. When tossing the gnocchi with sauce it stunts the warmth of the gnocchi and adds extra creaminess.
  • For more recipes to try with this pesto, or to pair alongside, or just for inspiration, please visit the Kitchen Journal.