From the moment my eyes on Lidia Bastianich's Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with Strawberry Sauce, I knew they were coming to my home. Have you ever glanced at a recipe and suddenly found yourself obsessed with making it - yesterday?
I thought - February - for Valentine's Day. A berry-red soup-sauce with snowy dumplings - who could wait? Not me. I indulged - telling myself that because the dumplings were boiled and not fried - these were "January-healthy." "January-healthy" calls for robust - that's my new definition. It has fruit (vitamins) and cheese (calcium).
The recipe hails from northern Trentino-Alto Adige - a province that gives a wink and a nod to both Italian and German cooking. The dumplings (which are actually not sweet) are boiled and then sauteed - becoming like a custard when cooked.
Sweet Ricotta Dumplings with Strawberry Sauce - from Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy
Canederli di Ricotta (makes 18 canederli -dumplings; serves 6 - it served 8)
6 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 pound fresh ricotta, drained
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
Put strawberries, sugar and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Set over medium-low heat stirring occasionally. As the berries give up their juices and it starts to bubble, adjust heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 8 minutes - until the berries are soft and the juices are slightly syrupy. Cover and keep warm. (Can be made ahead. Reheat before serving.)
(Note: While Lidia says to make this after dinner - I did boil them ahead of time and then briefly ran them threw the simmering butter while the guests waited.)
For the dough: Put ricotta in large bowl and whisk it. Blend in eggs and the 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Add flour and gently fold the flour into the ricotta until all is incorporated. The dough will be soft and sticky. (I refrigerated the dough for 30 minutes which made it easier to handle).
Fill a large pot with 6 quarts of water, add the tablespoon of salt and heat to a boil. Put the butter in a large skillet and melt the butter over a low flame. Keep warm.
When water boils, reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Using an ice cream scoop that has been submerged in a glass of cold water (prevent mixture from sticking), scoop up some ricotta mixture and with floured hands, form into a ball (I just used the ice cream scoop and didn't play with the mixture. I tend to be - expedient.). Dispense scooped mixture into simmering water. Repeat. (I did about 3 at a time). Keep the ice cream scoop moistened with the cold water. Let the dumplings cook without stirring. Once they have risen to the top, simmer for 5-7 minutes. You can test if for doneness by pressing into the dumplings - they should feel solid and spring back. If too soft, simmer for another minute.
Lift out the dumplings (Lidia says use "a spider.") and let them drain over the pot and then gently roll them in the warmed butter. Turn off heat and let them sit and firm up for a minute.
To serve: Arrange canederli/dumplings in large-rimmed platter, pouring warmed strawberry sauce over all. or - simply put dumplings in individual dishes with a few tablespoons of strawberry sauce.
Notes: I was successful doing these ahead of time. The 1/4 cup dumplings were very filling. I couldn't finish mine! (Maybe it was the wedge of Brie, the aged Provolone and the Fettuccine with Sausage Ragu that preceded the meal?) But with lightly floured fingers, I would make smaller dumplings. And let them swim in the strawberry soup. And later I will make them with raspberries or blackberries or cherries and maybe take the ricotta dumplings and "herb" them and serve them with a savory sauce or as an appetizer... I foresee a huge future for this recipe.