Food · Recipes

Ricotta Gnocchi & Vegan Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce

I want to immediately mention that only the sauce in this dish is vegan! The rest of the dish involves cheese … which is not vegan, but the dish itself is straight up vegetarian. This sauce is one of my favorites because it gives you the indulgence of creaminess you look for in a thick pasta sauce, but without the guilt. I make a big batch of this and freeze individual containers so I can always have it on deck for any type of pasta dish I may make.

For the non-vegans, I do have to say, this sauce goes amazing with this super delicious gnocchi. Before I get into it, this dish may seem more complicated than my usual recipes, but individually, each of these elements are pretty simple to make, and the great thing is, you can make them separately and keep them to throw together any time, so, if you don’t have the time to make this whole dish, you could make the gnocchi one night, freeze it, and then make the sauce the next night and just toss them together. Really, you all know I embrace simplicity and accessibility when it comes to cooking, so trust me on this one!

We’re going to make the sauce first, but if you’re intending on also making the gnocchi, you need to drain the ricotta. Put your 16oz. of ricotta cheese in a strainer over the sink that is lined with 3 coffee filters or paper towel.

Now we can get to the amazing Caulifredo Sauce!

Sauce Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 c. veggie stock
  • 1/2 sweet onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Sauce Instructions:

Put your cauliflower into a large pot and pour the veggie stock over it. Turn on the fire and let the cauliflower cook/steam uncovered until super soft (about 15-20min). Meanwhile, add some olive oil to a skillet and sauté your onion and garlic over medium-low heat until nice and caramelized and browned.

Once the cauliflower has finished, transfer with a slotted spoon from the pot to your food processor. Do not discard the broth!!! Add your onions and garlic, then add nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a cup of the leftover cooking broth. Puree on high for about 3-4 minutes, until incredibly smooth. You may add more broth as you blend. I ended up using the rest of my leftover broth (at this point I only had about 3/4 c. left). Blend that up until its frothy and creamy and smoooooth.

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Now that the sauce is finished, set it aside (or divide into containers to save in the fridge or freezer).

Next, let’s get to the gnocchi!

Gnocchi Ingredients:

  • 16oz. container ricotta cheese (drained for 1hr. see instructions above!)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 c. finely grated parmesan
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 to 1c. flour
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes for garnish

Gnocchi Instructions:

At this point, your ricotta should have drained. Some will not have that much liquid, and just give off moisture to whatever you lined your strainer with. This is okay! Don’t worry if there isn’t a lot of liquid.

In a large bowl, add strained ricotta, your egg, parmesan cheese, salt and 3/4 c. of the flour. Mix together until everything is incorporated (I used my hands and floured them, just seemed easiest). Then cover and refrigerate for 15min. Check and see the consistency of the dough, if it is very sticky and gets stuck to your hand, add some more flour, tablespoon by tablespoon and return to the fridge for another 15, until it’s a workable consistency (it will still be kind of sticky).

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If you’re going to cook some of this immediately, now is the time to set your pot of water to boil, so it’s ready to go when you’ve prepared the gnocchi. Sprinkle some flour over a baking sheet and set it aside.

Flour your workspace and take a small handful of dough and transfer it to your workspace. Work it into a rope shape that is about 3/4 of an inch thick. With a sharp knife (I floured mine a bit to avoid sticking), cut off 3/4″ pieces, they’ll look like little baby pillows and are super cute. You can leave them like this (I did), or you can do the traditional gnocchi grooves using the back of a fork, and rolling them along that.

Put the individual pieces on your floured baking sheet and toss with the flour to prevent sticking. Repeat the same process with the remaining dough.

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Now, I like to add some fresh vegetables to whatever pasta dish I make, and since tomatoes go so well with pasta, I cut up some cherry tomatoes and lightly sautéed them with some olive oil. At this point of the recipe I put them on, because I just like to cook them down a little tiny bit. If you like your tomatoes mushy, you should definitely start cooking them down sooner.

Back to the gnocchi!

Add a half tbsp of salt to your boiling water, and add in however much gnocchi you want to make, or half of the batch. This is up to your discretion, you don’t want to overcrowd the pot. Stir gently to avoid sticking, and let the rise to the surface. Let them cook in the boiling water for another 2-3 minutes. Then remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander over the sink or a bowl to finish draining, you don’t want them to be too wet and drippy.

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Now, you can either repeat for the second half of the batch, or you can put the leftover uncooked gnocchi in the freezer to save (keep on baking sheet in freezer until firm, then transfer to a ziploc bag for long-term storage).

As the tomatoes are finishing off, add some of your Caulifredo sauce to the pan with them and cook ’em together for a minute or two, just to heat up the sauce.

Plate up your drained gnocchi, top with the sauce and tomatoes, and sprinkle with some parmesan cheese.

BOOM. How yummy does that look? And let me tell you, it is dang tasty.

ENJOY!

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