Tastes of Summer (2003)

See Also
  Ricotta Gnocchi with Sweet-Fennel-Sausage Ragù

The Chef
Mark Ladner of Lupa

Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a main course

8 ounces fresh drained ricotta
8 ounces Coach Farm goat curd
(fresh goat cheese can be substituted)
1 egg
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
3⁄4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling the dough
2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino
1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons butter

Sweet Fennel Sausage Ragù
1 teaspoon olive oil
1⁄2 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, toasted and ground
1⁄2–1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, or to taste
1⁄2 large red onion, cut into medium dice
1 stalk celery, cut into medium dice
1 medium carrot, cut into medium dice
1⁄2 fennel bulb, cut into medium dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-ounce can Italian tomatoes, puréed until smooth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta and goat curd; mix well with a rubber spatula. Add the egg, salt, and pepper and fold together. Slowly add the flour and mix the dough until combined, but take care not to overwork it. Refrigerate until the dough has firmed up.

Turn the dough onto a generously floured surface, as it may be a little sticky, and roll into cylinders approximately 3⁄4-inch thick. Place the cylinders on a floured tray and refrigerate for 1 hour. Remove the cylinders from the fridge one at a time, and with a sharp knife cut them into 1⁄2-inch lengths. Flatten each gnocchi gently with the tines of a fork.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a thick, heavy-bottomed pan, and add the sausage. Sauté until the sausage is brown on the outside but still pink in the center, then add half the ground fennel and half the red-pepper flakes. When the sausage pieces are just cooked through, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon. Add the onions, celery, carrots, fennel bulb, and garlic to the pan with the sausage fat and cook until they caramelize. Return the sausage to the pan and stir in the tomatoes. Simmer the ragù for approximately 30 minutes or until all the vegetables and sausage are tender. Check and adjust seasonings to taste, adding salt, pepper, more pepper flakes, and ground fennel. When the mixture has cooled, transfer to a blender. Pulse until just combined—the sauce should not be smooth.

To Serve
Bring 4 quarts water with 2 tablespoons salt to a boil in a large pot. In a sauté pan, gently warm the sausage ragù with the butter. Add water to ragù to thin it if necessary.

Drop the gnocchi into the boiling water a few at a time; stir to keep them from sticking. Cook them for 4 to 5 minutes—they’re done when they have floated on the surface for about a minute. Gently remove the gnocchi with a slotted spoon and immediately add to the sauté pan with the ragù. Toss the gnocchi in the ragù and cook for 30 seconds Add a little pasta water if necessary to thin the sauce. Toss the gnocchi with pecorino and black pepper. Serve immediately.