Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather.  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

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This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!I can be pretty stubborn.  Actually, I can be really stubborn.  In fact, when asked to pick 3 adjectives that describe yourself, “determined” is usually one of the ones I select.  (And let’s admit it.  Determined is just a nicer way of saying stubborn, right?)  Somewhere, Laura is reading this post and nodding her head up and down.  I must admit that stubborn is the perfect word for describing my relationship with veal.

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!My family didn’t grow up eating veal.  In reality, veal is most common in large dairy states, and the South is not particularly known for dairy.  The majority of US veal farms are located in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.  I honestly can’t say I even saw veal in the grocery store until we moved up here to upstate New York.  Occasionally, I’d see veal on a restaurant menu (typically Veal Parmesan), but I never ordered it.  I didn’t know much about veal.  Moreover, I’d heard that veal was just baby cows, and most of these cows were neglected.

So when the opportunity to visit a veal farm arose earlier this year, I seriously debated it.  I’ve worked quite a bit with the beef industry, but I still wasn’t sure about veal.  After much internal debate, I decided to go along on the tour just to get a better understanding.

Veal Farm - upstate New YorkOne of the biggest things I’d heard about the veal industry was that veal calves were kept in confined crates where they couldn’t move or see other animals.  Back in 2007, the veal industry in the US made a commitment to move to group pens rather than individual crates.  This commitment was phased in over a 10-year period, and today all milk-fed veal calves are raised in group pens.  I saw these pens with my own eyes.  Sure enough, the calves have plenty of room to move about.

We’ve chatted before about technology in the beef industry, but I saw one of the coolest things at the veal farm.  Just as the name suggests, milk-fed veal calves are fed milk.  The calves are able to feed whenever they’d like, but this presents a unique problem in itself.  Since the calves are kept in a group pen, it’s a bit difficult to ensure that all calves are getting enough milk.  Here’s where the technology comes in!

Each calf has an electronic sensor that communicates with the milk feeding machine.  Each time the calf drinks, that data is recorded.  If a certain calf isn’t getting enough milk, then the farmer is alerted, and he or she can intervene to make sure that calf remains healthy.  And all of this can be monitored via the farmer’s smart phone.  Kinda crazy, huh?

Veal Farm - upstate New YorkWhat is veal?

Veal is meat that is produced from the male offspring of dairy cows.  Cows give birth once a year.  Female offspring of dairy cows typically remain in the herd, but male offspring are often sold to either veal farmers or beef farmers.  Milk-fed veal calves are raised for about 6 months, or to an average weight of about 500 pounds.  (For reference, beef cows are raised to an average of 1200 pounds.)

Veal is quite popular in Europe, and when veal farming came to the US in the mid-1900’s, the thought was that confinement and an all-milk diet were needed to produce tender meat.  That thought process has changed dramatically, and veal production is quite different today than it was 75 years ago.  Veal calves are tether-free, and they are raised in group-pens with plenty of room to move around.  (Cows are herd animals, though.  No matter the amount of space, you typically find them all huddled up together.)

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!What does veal taste like?

While veal is technically considered a red meat, raw veal is much paler in color than traditional beef.  When cooking, veal will more readily absorb the flavors of the various herbs and seasonings in the recipe.  Garlic, lemon and Italian seasonings are some of the more common ingredients used in many veal recipes.  Veal is often found as cutlets which are then used to make classic dishes like Veal Parmesan or Wiener Schnitzel.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu

For today’s recipe, I stuck with the Italian theme.  (Have you met me?  We love Italian food around here!)  Instead of Veal Parmesan, though, I opted for Veal Ragu.  Ragu is a meat sauce which develops layers of flavor thanks to simmering on the stovetop for several hours.  Ragu is a relatively easy recipe to make as most of the cooking time is inactive.  All you need to do is walk by the stove occasionally and give the pot a stir.  Then just let that ragu keep on simmerin’ away.

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!Ragu is often served with pasta.  For this Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu, I chose to make ricotta gnocchi.  I absolutely love potato gnocchi, but those can be a labor of love to make.  Ricotta gnocchi on the other hand couldn’t be easier.  Seriously!  You simply mix up the ingredients into a “dough,” and then roll that dough into a log.  Cut off 1″ pieces of that log and gently cook them in a pot of boiling water.  2-3 minutes later, the cooked gnocchi will float to the top, and that’s your cue that dinner is almost done!

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu was a huge hit in our house.  The ground veal was tender, and it absorbed so much flavor from the other ingredients in the pot.  Add in those ricotta gnocchi, and we had one heck of a delicious dinner.  (And this recipe makes excellent leftovers as the flavors meld overnight!)

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!If you’re still curious about the veal industry, hop over and check out VealFarm.com.  Veal farming has changed dramatically in the past several decades, and this site is full of excellent info.  In the meantime, though, pick up some ground veal at the store and make this Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu.  Enjoy!

Did you make this Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu at home?  Leave a comment.  Or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog)!

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!
5 from 10 votes
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Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 3 hours 10 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 600kcal


For the Veal Ragu

For the Gnocchi


For the Veal Ragu

  • Using a large stock pot or Dutch oven, add olive oil and place over medium heat. Once hot, add onion, carrots, celery, parsley, garlic, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary; stir until well combined.
  • Sauté for 6-7 minutes, or until onions have softened.
  • Add veal; stir until well combined.
  • Continue sautéing for 12-15 more minutes, or until veal has browned slightly.
  • Add wine and stock. Bring mixture to a boil; boil for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add tomato paste and tomatoes; stir until well combined. Reduce heat to low and let simmer uncovered for 2-2½ hours, stirring occasionally.

For the Gnocchi

  • Using a medium mixing bowl, add all gnocchi ingredients; stir until well combined.
  • Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rest for ~30 minutes.
  • While dough is resting, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  • Roll dough into a log approximately 1" thick. (Tip: Roll log in extra semolina flour to keep it from sticking.) Slice log into ~1" pieces.
  • Add gnocchi to boiling water; cook until gnocchi float (~1-2 minutes).
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked gnocchi onto plates. Top with Veal Ragu.
  • Before serving, drizzle top of dish with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and freshly chopped Italian parsley.

This Ricotta Gnocchi with Veal Ragu is the ultimate comfort food for chilly weather!  Packed with layers upon layers of flavor, this recipe is definitely a keeper!

Looking for more delicious recipes?  Check out some of these other favorite cold-weather comfort foods:

Packed with fresh spinach and ricotta cheese, these Malfatti are an easy homemade pasta that will quickly become a family favorite!Malfatti

Chicken Fried Steak is a classic comfort food!  Jalapeno Bacon Gravy takes this one to a whole new level of deliciousness!Chicken Fried Steak w/ Jalapeno Bacon Gravy

Mix up pizza night this week!  This Steak and Gorgonzola pizza features seared ribeye steak along with dollops of creamy mozzarella and gorgonzola cheese.  Yum!Steak and Gorgonzola Pizza

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    1. This ricotta gnocchi truly is easy and so tender, Dawn! It comes together in a flash, and the veal ragu adds so much flavor. Excellent comfort food meal! Thanks, Dawn!

  1. 5 stars
    I’ll admit that when I saw “veal” at the top of this post I didn’t think I could actually read it. I’m so glad I did! Thank you for enlightening me. The thought of baby cows locked up alone literally used to keep me up at night. (Hey, I love cows!) I’m so glad to know that’s not standard practice anymore! I’ve never made ricotta gnocchi but you’ve convinced me to give it a shot. Have a great week!

    1. Yes! Thank you so much, Kelsie. You and I are (were) in the same boat. I had such a strong misunderstanding about veal. I didn’t want to go on this trip for that very reason, but I’m so glad I did. As you can see, veal farming is nothing like that anymore!

      Also, definitely try your hand at ricotta gnocchi. It’s surprisingly easy, and the texture is light and pillow-y. Perfect for some good Italian sauce! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much, Marissa! I try to always include some interesting facts (or if nothing else, then some fun stories) in my posts. Veal farming is nothing like what I thought, and I’m so glad I went on this trip. (And I’m glad I was able to explain it to you, too!) 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    Wow, this is indeed a delicious looking comfort food! So much to learn here. Happy to hear the veal calves are raised with more freedom these days. 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. Yes! Veal farming is so very different than what it used to be (or at least what I thought it used to be). I was pleasantly surprised when I stepped foot on that veal farm and saw how things actually work. 🙂

  3. 5 stars
    This is really interesting. When I worked in restaurants in college, we served veal. It was quite popular and was always delicious. I’ve never cooked with veal myself though. I need to start thinking about veal as an option and buying it. This veal ragu looks delicious – especially with the gnocchi!

    1. Yes! You’re up there in an area that should have plenty of veal, too. I must admit that I’m still new to cooking with (and even eating) veal as it was never on my radar growing up. Veal is particularly good at taking the flavors of other ingredients. I highly recommend starting with this ragu if you’re looking for some good comfort food, Kathy! Thanks so much, my friend!

  4. I’m very stubborn, too, but in a negative way. I can give up on attempting a recipe (after 1 or 2 failures); however, I’m extremely stubborn in argument. Sometimes, in the middle of the argument I realize my arguments are wrong, but I will normally not stop…because I must be right that moment…and I’d rather apologize 1 hour later haha 🙂

    Anyway, this hearty meal looks fantastic! My mom used to make cottage cheese dumplings, but I’ve never tried with it ricotta. They look so soft and pillowy – perfect vessel for a rich sauce / ragu. I need to try it!

    1. Haha! I totally recognize some of that exact same logic there, Ben. 🙂 You should try making ricotta gnocchi sometime soon. It’s delicious, and it’s surprisingly easy to make, too!

  5. 5 stars
    Everything about this dish makes me OH so happy! Ricotta gnocchi is one of my favourite things that my Mum makes! And the veal ragu? Divine! 🙂 What a fantastic combination, David! I have recently been enjoying making a lot of potato gnocchi, but I think it is time to mix that up and give your delicious recipe a try 🙂

    1. If you’ve been loving the potato gnocchi lately, then promise me you’ll try ricotta gnocchi. It’s SO much easier, and it’s definitely delicious. 🙂 And I think the veal ragu is quite a nice pairing. Thanks so much, Alex!

  6. 5 stars
    I don’t eat veal, but totally appreciate the info, David! Looks like those cuties have tons of space to move around. And that gnocchi? Just pile ’em on the plate..,they look so pillowy soft and just straight up DELISH! With cooler temps, comfort food is in order (my fave). Hope you have a lovely week, my friend 🙂

    1. I’m with ya, Dawn. I really appreciate the opportunity to learn more about veal farming today. And those gnocchi are perfect for serving with a flavorful ragu, too! Thanks so much, my friend!

  7. 5 stars
    I love gnocchi, David, and have made it several times, but have never made ricotta gnocchi – and I can’t wait to try it! It sounds awesome with this beautiful Ragu! Thanks for the recipe and the info on raising veal calves. And, BTW, I, too, fall into the “stubborn” category, but I would call myself “principled” or maybe “tenacious”! Ha!

    1. Ah, “tenacious” is a good one! (I’d also use that term to describe myself…haha.) So definitely put ricotta gnocchi on the list. It’s surprisingly easy, and it pairs really well with ragus and other flavorful sauces. Thanks, Laura!!

  8. Hi David! I love veal but unfortunately I cannot get it here. 🙁 We have a fair amount of cows, but they are mostly steers raised for beef. Now the ricotta gnocchi I can make, they look so delicious! I will sub in ground pork/beef for the ragu. My son makes gnocchi quite often (as well as risotto). For being a very picky eater when he was little, he did watch and learn when I was in the kitchen. 🙂

    1. You know, that doesn’t surprise me much, Dorothy. The south isn’t particularly known for dairy, so it makes sense that veal is more limited down there. You could totally use beef here, though! And the ricotta gnocchi? It’s super easy and perfect for sauces like ragus. Give it a shot! 🙂 And it’s amazing what kids pick up when you don’t think they’re paying attention, right?? Haha!

  9. 5 stars
    David, if there’s heaven in a bowl, it’s gnocchi with ragu sauce! It looks delicious! Like you, I didn’t grow up eating veal. (Although I did grow up in Ohio.) I’ve certainly enjoyed it when I’ve had it as an adult.

    I really enjoyed reading your post on the production of veal. That smartphone technology is cool! I didn’t realize that veal absorbs more of the flavors it’s cooked in. That would make for a very tasty dish!

    1. Ah! I’m with ya on the veal, Kelly. It just wasn’t on my radar growing up, and I didn’t understand much about it. I appreciated the chance to visit that veal farm here in upstate New York. I learned so much! Plus, the smartphone technology on farms these days is just downright amazing. So cool! Thanks so much, my friend!

  10. 5 stars
    As you say David, this is definitely great comfort food for chilly weather. Love how you’ve got gnocchi with it too. I’m glad that veal farming has got better as well. That reminds me. I haven’t cooked with veal in ages!

    1. There ya go! Time to whip up a fun veal recipe. 🙂 I highly recommend this one. The slow simmering of the ragu just produces so much flavor. And I love the easy ricotta gnocchi here, too. Thanks, Neil!

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