We’ve started to eat a lot more vegetarian meals, much to my hubby’s chagrin. Although I have to be fair and say that he is now embracing it. He will always try what I prepare and I think it’s fair to say, he is generally enjoying it more than he thought he would. I had bought some ricotta cheese to use with spinach in cannelloni, but when it came to the cooking I didn’t much fancy it. I’m not very familiar with ricotta and nothing else sprang to mind, so I had a quick internet search for some inspiration and found a recipe for ricotta dumplings by the amazing Gennaro Contaldo. I love Mediterranean food, particularly Spanish and Italian, because to me it seems this food is based on gorgeous, fresh ingredients that are simply prepared. This ticks all my boxes and with only five ingredients for the dumplings and four for the sauce, the recipe certainly gave an expectation of simplistic elegance.
Genaro’s recipe calls for 00 flour. Luckily I had a bag of this flour that was originally intended for my first attempt at pasta. However the absence of a pasta machine meant the flour was just gathering dust in the cupboard. I must invest in one at some point but until then, at least the flour was put to good use. I must mention that my sister happened to call just as I was about to start making the dumpling mix, and – never one to turn down a good chat – I carried on with the prep. Apart from the crook neck from straining to hold the phone on my shoulder (it now occurs to me that use of the loud speaker function may have been more than sensible), I managed to mix, knead and prepare a batch of these little beauties whilst on the phone. Surely that is a USP for simplicity? Maybe I should grade all my recipes’ simplicity, based on my ability to hold inanimate objects while preparing!
The sauce is even simpler and you can use it for a million other dishes, not least a simple pasta sauce. You could jazz it up by adding protein or vegetables of your choice. Although I think it’s delicious on its own. The whole thing took under 20 minutes to make, so it’s a brilliant mid-week supper and although small, the dumplings are deceptively filling, so this really can feed four. I ate the left overs the next day, reheated in the microwave and even froze some of the extra sauce. My tip to make it extra tasty is to add half a teaspoon of sugar to the sauce. Sounds odd but it just takes the edge off of the tomato acidity. Also, if you can, please try and use fresh basil. It really makes such a huge difference to the flavour. The only other addition I made (it wouldn’t be me otherwise) was serving some fresh mozzarella along side it. Honestly, the whole thing is easy peasy, not to mention lip smackingly delicious and husband approved.
For the dumplings
- 200g/7oz 00 flour, plus extra for dusting
- 225g/8oz ricotta
- 3 free-range egg yolks
- 30g/1oz parmesan, freshly grated
- Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled, cut into thick slices
- 1 chilli, sliced
- 2 x 400g cans tinned plum tomatoes, each tomato chopped in half
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- Few (lots for me!) basil leaves
- Mozzarella cheese
- Mix the flour, ricotta, egg yolks, parmesan, nutmeg and seasoning together in a large bowl to form a soft, moist dough.
- Tip the mixture out onto a floured work surface and knead for 3-5 minutes. Roll the dough into a long, thin sausage shape, then cut into dumplings about 2cm/1in long.
- Cook the dumplings for 3-4 minutes in a large saucepan of salted boiling water.
- Meanwhile for the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic and chilli for one minute, then remove the pan from the heat and add the plum tomatoes.
- Return the pan to the heat, bring to the boil and simmer for five minutes.
- Remove the dumplings from the pan with a slotted spoon and add them to the tomato sauce.
- To serve, spoon the dumplings onto a serving plate and sprinkle over the basil leaves and mozzarella.