But as Italian food authority Marcella Hazan reminds us in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, “Gastronomically speaking, gnocchi should be anything but lumpish." The ultimate goal is that they be “fluffy” and “cloud-light.” That holy grail of gnocchi is what I’m always looking for, and so rarely find.
I was fortunate enough to be working at the old 16th St Union Square Cafe during the time that Chef Carmen Quagliata debuted his ricotta gnocchi. I remember assuming I knew what they would taste like, and my surprise at first bite. There was nothing tough or leaden about them. These pale pillows of barely-held-together ricotta and mascarpone melt instantly on your tongue. They come sauced with a concentrated, tomato passatina, sweet but bright, velvety, simple. In the decade since I worked at Union Square Cafe, it’s the one dish I order every time I dine.