Ricotta Gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese

Ricotta Gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese
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About This Recipe

In the heart of Napa Valley, there exists a love affair between wine and cuisine that transcends time. Among the many dishes I've cherished during my culinary explorations in this renowned wine region is a soul-soothing dish: Ricotta Gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese. This dish, with its pillowy-soft ricotta gnocchi and rich Merlot-infused bolognese sauce, truly captures the essence of wine country cuisine.

The ricotta gnocchi recipe I adore has its roots deep in the culinary traditions of Italy but has found a perfect home here in Napa. While traditional gnocchi is often made with potatoes, the use of ricotta gives it a delicate texture and an undeniable creaminess. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi variation, in particular, adds a touch of earthy sweetness to this already delectable dish.

Then, there’s the bolognese sauce, a symphony of flavors that's been amplified by the incorporation of Merlot, a wine varietal that's as much a part of Napa's DNA as its rolling vineyards. The best bolognese recipe should carry deep, savory flavors with a velvety finish, and the use of Merlot ensures just that. The wine lends the sauce a depth and robustness that you won't find in your average bolognese sauce recipe.

Speaking of wine, let's delve into the perfect pairings for this dish. Given the richness and depth of flavors, especially from the Merlot-infused sauce, a bottle of Duckhorn Vineyards Merlot makes a safe and harmonious pairing. Its velvety tannins and red fruit aromas complement the dish, echoing the very wine used in its creation. For those who prefer a classic pairing, a robust Cabernet Sauvignon from Silver Oak Cellars is a must-try. Its deep flavors and tannic structure stand up to the richness of the Bolognese sauce, offering a mouthful of heaven in every bite. Lastly, for the more adventurous souls, I'd recommend a GSM blend from Tablas Creek Vineyard. This wine, with its bouquet of flavors, offers an exciting contrast to the creamy ricotta gnocchi while harmonizing with the sauce’s depth.

The Ricotta Gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese recipe, while rich in flavor, is but one dish in a multi-course menu. Imagine beginning with a crisp Sonoma greens salad, followed by the gnocchi, and perhaps culminating in a roasted rosemary lamb or a delicate poached pear dessert. Such menus are not just about food; they're a journey through the flavors of Napa and Sonoma, capturing the regions' essence.

If you ever find yourself wandering the picturesque streets of Napa or Sonoma, take a moment to explore local grocers and markets. Stock up on fresh ricotta, perhaps from a local dairy, and hunt for a bottle of Merlot that speaks to you. Or if you're lucky enough to be here during a wine festival, attend a gnocchi making workshop. It's experiences like these that make the wine country so special.

For those of you planning a visit or even those just daydreaming about the wonders of California’s wine country, remember this: Napa Valley and its surrounding regions are not just about wine. They're about a culinary adventure that's deeply rooted in the love for food and wine. So, the next time you find yourself craving something comforting and rich, think of the ricotta gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese, and let your senses transport you straight to Napa. Cheers!

Hero Ingredient Spotlight: Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese is the unsung hero of many Italian dishes, and it's especially crucial in our ricotta gnocchi recipe. This whey cheese, originally from Italy, has a creamy texture and mildly sweet flavor. Unlike other cheeses that are aged, ricotta is best enjoyed fresh. Its lightness offers the gnocchi a pillowy softness, contrasting beautifully with the robust Merlot bolognese sauce. When shopping for ricotta, always opt for the whole-milk version to ensure the creamiest gnocchi.

How to Perfectly Shape and Cook Your Gnocchi

Achieving the perfect gnocchi texture might seem daunting, but with a little practice, you'll master it. Once your ricotta gnocchi dough is ready:

  1. Flour your hands and work surface lightly.
  2. Pinch off a small piece of dough and roll it into a ball about the size of a cherry.
  3. Gently press down on the ball with the back of a fork to give it the traditional ridged appearance.
  4. In a pot of boiling salted water, add the gnocchi. Cook until they float to the surface, indicating they're done. This usually takes 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove with a slotted spoon and add directly to your bolognese sauce to soak up all those flavors!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I store leftover gnocchi bolognese for later? Absolutely! Store the gnocchi and bolognese sauce separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. When reheating, warm the sauce first before adding the gnocchi to prevent them from becoming too mushy.
  2. I have a gluten allergy. Can I make this with gluten-free flour? Yes, you can substitute gluten-free flour for the all-purpose flour in the ricotta gnocchi recipe. Just ensure it's a blend suitable for pasta or bread for the best results.
  3. Can I use a different type of wine for the bolognese sauce? While Merlot offers a specific depth and flavor profile to the bolognese sauce, other robust red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah can also be used as a substitute.
  4. I don't have fresh tomatoes. Can I use canned? Yes, if you're in a pinch, canned tomatoes (preferably whole and crushed by hand) can replace fresh tomatoes. Just adjust the cooking time to ensure the sauce develops a rich flavor.
  5. What other tools can I use to shape the gnocchi if I don't have a fork? A gnocchi board or even the tines of a whisk can be used to give your gnocchi those signature grooves. However, they can also be left smooth if preferred.

Tips for Success

  1. Quality Over Quantity: Invest in high-quality, fresh ricotta. It genuinely makes a difference in the texture and taste of your gnocchi. Local farmers' markets or specialty Italian grocers often carry the freshest ricotta.
  2. Avoid Overworking the Dough: Gnocchi dough should be handled gently. Overworking can lead to tough gnocchi. Mix just until the ingredients come together for the softest result.
  3. Pairing Perfection: Remember, the beauty of this dish lies in its marriage with wine. Whether you choose the recommended Merlot, a Cabernet, or even a GSM blend, always opt for quality wines. It'll elevate your dining experience to true Napa Valley standards.

Recipe Overview

Ricotta Gnocchi in Merlot Bolognese
Lily Anderson
4 servings
Calories Per Serving:
Prep Time:
Cook Time:
Total Time:

Ingredients List


  • 2 cups ricotta cheese, drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups Merlot wine
  • 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving

Step-by-Step Directions

  1. Begin by preparing the gnocchi. In a large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan, and flour until it forms a dough. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead gently. Divide the dough into sections and roll each into a long rope. Cut into 1-inch pieces and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrot, and celery, and sauté until softened.
  3. Add ground beef and cook until browned. Pour in the Merlot wine and let it simmer for a few minutes to reduce slightly.
  4. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, basil, and parsley. Let the Bolognese sauce simmer for about 20 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add gnocchi and cook until they float to the surface, about 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  6. Serve the gnocchi on plates, topped with the Merlot Bolognese and a sprinkle of grated Parmesan.

Share Your Results

Was it everything you dreamed it could be? Let me know how it turned out for you and share a picture on social media with the hashtag #LilyCooksNapa

Hello and welcome to Napa Home Chef! We're thrilled you're joining us to explore the vibrant world of wine country cooking. Our team has crafted bold, creative recipes inspired by Napa Valley's lush landscapes, bountiful harvests, and world-renowned wines. We hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Get ready to experience the rich flavors and unique culinary delights that embody the essence of wine country living. Happy cooking!

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