One of our favorite farms we visited in writing our book was Les Ecureils in the Valle d'Aosta. The family raises goats, so everything you eat comes from them: goat butter, fresh spreadable goat cheese, goat yogurt, even goat gelato. These goat cheese gnocchi are really typical of the food there.
One of the special goat cheeses at Les Ecureils is goat milk ricotta. It's drier and more pungent than cow's milk ricotta. You may be able to find it at your local farmer's market, but if not, you can get a similar effect by mixing 1 cup of soft, fresh goat cheese with 3/4 cup of regular ricotta. Add 1 cup of all-purpose flour, and knead until you get a nice, soft dough.
Once your dough is made, roll it out into 1-inch thick ropes and cut them crosswise into 1/4-inch wide dumplings. Classic gnocchi are rolled across a fork to create those ridges that catch the sauce, but we learned a neat variation of that trick at Les Ecureils: take a small handheld cheese grater and you just roll each dumpling against the concave surface (the back), to create a sort of raised cross-hatch pattern on the gnocchi.
To cook the gnocchi, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the gnocchi into the water and cook until they float to the surface, about 1 or 2 minutes. Use a skimmer to scoop the gnocchi out of the water. But before you dump the cooking water, reserve 1/4 cup of it.
For the sauce, melt 6 Tbs. of butter in a sauté pan. When it starts to foam, add 1/3 cup chopped walnuts and 1 Tbs. of chopped thyme. Cook it for a few minutes until the butter begins to brown and the walnuts get toasty. Then whisk in the reserved pasta water and season to taste with salt and pepper. Then toss the cooked gnocchi in the butter sauce, and sprinkle with a little extra thyme to garnish, and you're ready to serve.
|Episode 1: Croxetti (Pasta Coins) with Pine Nut-Butter Sauce||Episode 2: Butternut Squash Gnocchi||Episode 3: Spinach Malfatti (Dumplings)|
|Episode 4: Bergamo-Style Ravioli||Episode 5: Bigoli with Duck Ragu||Episode 6: Pasta Imbottita (Cheese Pillows in Broth)|
|Episode 7: Goat Cheese Gnocchi with Walnut Butter Sauce||Episode 8: Cappelletti with Wild Mushroom Sauce||Episode 9: Spinach, Ricotta and Egg Yolk Raviolo|