Not too far from us sits Bellweather Farms, a beautiful sheep dairy producing a variety of high quality cheeses (sheep and cow's milk). We love their pepato, a semi-soft sheep's cheese similar to a young pecorino with whole peppercorns and especially, when it's available, their sheep's milk basket drained ricotta. It's fresh and creamy and delicious and feels special in spreads, pasta sauces or just spread on toast with a drizzle of honey.
Heading out of town I just couldn't leave our precious ricotta to age past it's expiration date so I rolled up my sleeves and boldly strode where I rarely go -- gnocchi.
I combined 1 cup of flour, 1/2 cup finely grated pecorino cheese (I was on a sheep theme here), and zest of 1/2 lemon with my hands to make sure the lemon was evenly distributed. Next I made a well in the center of my dry ingredients and put in 1 cup of ricotta and 1 egg. With as few strokes as possible I mixed all the ingredients together and spilled my dough onto a floured board. Cut into four equal pieces I rolled each quarter into a rope about 12" long and cut each rope into 3/4" lengths to form the tender little pillows that would be James' dinner. As the gnocchi were cut I put them on a parchment lined baking sheet with TB of flour and gave the tray a shimmy and shake to protect each pillow in a thin layer of flour. The gnocchi waited uncovered in the fridge until I was ready to make our dinner. Twenty minutes from almost expired ricotta to gnocchi for dinner.
A couple hours later I brought a pot of well salted water to a boil. I dropped in half the gnocchi and allowed the water to lightly bubble (too rapid a boil and the gnocchi may burst) as the dumplings rose to the top and then cooked through for about another 2 minutes. Meanwhile I melted butter in a skillet and allowed it to turn brown and nutty. In went the cooked through gnocchi (in two batches so some were more brown than others) and several leaves of fresh sage. The dumplings tossed in the brown butter and cooked long enough to lightly crisp on the outside. Pillowing soft fresh gnocchi with a tasty nutty brown butter crust.
Restaurant quality dinner in no time at all. And no expired cheese :-).