Ricotta Dumplings with Fava Beans and Savory

I have tried forever to like the classic heavy potato and flour gnocchi, but have given up. These ricotta dumplings, which I first tasted at the Zuni Café in San Francisco (thank you Judy Rogers) changed my mind about gnocchi, but only if they are made like this.

The recipe calls for savory because its higher purpose is to be cooked with fava beans (although tarragon is a good stand-in). In the south of France, and now in northern California, they know that winter savory (Satureja montana: poivre d’âne, or “donkey pepper”) is finer than the summer one.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups fresh ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup white flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 5 egg yolks
  • 3 pounds fresh young broad or fava beans in the pods
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh winter savory leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 nasturtium flowers, stemmed, shredded

Method

Mix the ricotta, flour, salt, and yolks together. Refrigerate 1 hour. Take out and form into little quenelle shapes with two small soupspoons heated in hot water: mound one with the ricotta, smooth out the mound with the other hot spoon, and slip off the spoon. Roll the dumplings on floured greaseproof paper and store covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve (up to 3 hours).

Take the fava beans out of the pods and then peel the green skin off the beans. Cook the beans in 4quarts of boiling salted water for 5 minutes, scoop them out with a strainer, and put them in a bowl. Add the butter and savory, a pinch of salt, and lashings of freshly ground black pepper.

Put the dumplings into the same pot of barely simmering water in which the beans were cooked, and simmer for 10 minutes. Lift the dumplings out of the water, and put them in warm soup plates. Spoon the savory butter from the beans over the dumplings, and then the beans around them. Garnish with the flowers.

Variation

Instead of butter or the flowers, use the nasturtium sauce, or one made with ½ cup cream, the savory, and ¼ cup chopped cooked bacon, all in which the beans have been cooked for 10 minutes over low heat.

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