What Is Raspberry Cheesecake Gnocchi?
Raspberry Cheesecake Gnocchi takes a savory Italian favorite and turns it into a sweet and slightly tart dessert. The gnocchi (dumplings) are made from cream cheese, ricotta cheese and a graham cracker flour, pan-fried in brown butter and served with a homemade raspberry sauce.
Where’d It Come From?
Once upon a time I had a slight obsession with the Food Network. One of my favorite shows was ‘Best Things I Ever Ate’ in which chefs would talk about the best foods they’ve had based on that episode’s theme. On one episode, Chef Danny Boome described an amazing Toasted Ricotta Gnocchi he had at Jane Restaurant in New York City. What made the dish special at the time was that the chef subbed out potato for ricotta cheese and drenched it in a truffle cream sauce (always a good move). I had the pleasure of trying this dish during my first visit to the city where my Airbnb was just around the corner from the restaurant!
The point here being that my idea for this recipe comes from this encounter with the cheesy dumpling entree. Then I figured, cheesecake is also cheesy (and New Yorky (not to be confused with an assertive breed of Yorkies)) – why not combine them?
Origins of the Cheesecake
If you thought cheesecake originated in New York, allow me to school you. “Cheese cake” dates back to 2,000 BC in Greece and may be even older (except that brings us to a pre-writing point in human history so who knows what those guys were up to). Cheese cake was said to be served to athletes during the very first Olympic games (circa 776 BC) due to the idea that it was a good source of energy. Back then, the average cheese cake was made from cheese, flour, wheat and honey and were also served at Greek weddings.
The first written recipe for cheesecake came about in 230 AD thanks to the Greek writer Athenaeus. After the Romans conquered Greece, they made their own variation known as “libuma.” With the expansion of the Roman empire, the cheesecake began to make its way across Europe. But it wasn’t until the 18th century did folks begin to remove yeast from recipes, making the cake more fitting as a sweet dessert.
Cream cheese (which was the accidental result of a failed attempt to replicate the French cheese Neufchatel) did not find its place in a cheesecake recipe until the dessert reached the US. Many attribute the creation of the New York cheesecake to Arnold Reuben, the well-known sandwicheur (is that a word?). The story traces Reuben’s intrigue to a cheese pie that was served at a dinner party he attended. Thereafter he experimented with the recipe to create the NY cheesecake, a cheesecake that gets its smooth texture and flavor from the extra egg yolks use in the cheese mix.
Origins of Gnocchi
There are many variations of gnocchi in Italy today. In Sorrento, they are served with a tomato sauce and appropriately named gnocchi alla sorrentina, while Venetians have a version they call macaroni, which is made sans potato. But the very first gnocchi came about around the 17th century after the Spanish brought potatoes to Italy.
During the Renaissance, gnocchi was considered a sophisticated dish that was often served during special occasions. Since then, it’s gone through many adaptations including recipes that involved everything from ground almonds to breadcrumbs. Then in the 19th century, Pellegrino Artusti alas published the gnocchi recipe that we know and love today.
How’s It Made?
Makes: 4 - 6 servings | Passive prep time: 1 hour | Active prep/cook time: 30 minutes
4 oz ricotta
8 oz cream cheese (softened)
1 cup ground graham cracker (see Step 1 for instructions)
4 tbs sugar
4 tbs butter
Splash of vanilla extract
Flour for dusting
2 cups raspberries
1 ¾ cup water
⅓ cup sugar
1.5 tbs cornstarch dissolved in water
In a food processor, grind graham crackers until it reaches a fine, flour-like texture.
Combine all gnocchi cheesecake ingredients in a large bowl and mix (you may need to use your hands). Cover and refrigerate for one hour.
As the gnocchi dough chills, make the raspberry sauce. In a small saucepan, combine all raspberry sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch. Bring to boil and reduce heat to a simmer for 30 minutes.
Place a sieve over a bowl and pour in the sauce. Mash the raspberries into the sieve and discard seeds.
Return sauce to saucepan and add in dissolved cornstarch. Mix constantly as you bring to a boil for one minute. Remove from heat and store in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Create the gnocchi by dusting your hands with flour and form one-inch oval balls.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop the gnocchi in.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a pan – heat until there’s a brown tint. Once the gnocchi are floating to the top of the water, use a slotted spoon to scoop them up and add them directly into the melted butter (be careful as you will be in the splash zone).
Brown the gnocchi until golden brown on each side.
Serve immediately with raspberry sauce.