Ricotta Gnocchi and Pesto with Chicken Sausage {recipe}

Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto & Chicken Sausage

Local Love for First Fresh Chicken Sausage

I’m excited to share another delicious local brand with you – First Fresh Chicken Sausage! Straight out of Gainesville, GA, this chicken sausage is made with all white meat and has no added hormones or MSG.

Chicken sausage is always a favorite weeknight staple of mine because of how healthy it is compared to pork sausage.  That, combined with how quick chicken sausage cooks up and it’s like, winner winner chicken sausage dinner – you know?


First Fresh’s chicken sausage really lives up to its name. The chicken’s fresh, and it’s nicely seasoned with a clean (not greasy) taste. I look forward to buying more at Publix!

So what did I do with these links of poultry goodness? I cooked them up with my favorite new homemade pasta, ricotta gnocchi.


A little background on the gnocchi

I love to cook with my grandmother. I always have, but especially now that I’m older and way more into cooking, I find that I want to learn even more from her. Every time I visit my grandparents, I pick a recipe I want to learn and we cook it together. She teaches me and I take notes, snap pictures and really try to soak it in. She has these recipes memorized after years and years of cooking them – me, not so much.

She was here in February and taught me how to make ricotta gnocchi and I’ve been hooked ever since.

If you’re not initiated, gnocchi are soft pillows of dough typically bound with potato, kind of like dumplings.  When the potato is swapped out with ricotta cheese, though, they’re a lot easier to work with and take on a lighter texture. They require a little prep and it can get a bit messy (flour, flour everywhere), but they cook up in a matter of minutes. The beauty of gnocchi is how light they taste, while being really sturdy and holding up to different sauces. Versatile, these little dough pillows go great with a light pesto sauce or heavier bolognese.

gnocchi close up

The following recipe is made up of different homemade parts that can be swapped out for store bought if you want an easier route to dinner. The gnocchi don’t require any fancy equipment – just your hands and a fork (or knife). If they seem like too much work, though, buy a package at the store.

If you don’t like the herbs I chose for the pesto feel free to swap them out with whichever herbs or greens you prefer – I personally love putting spinach in my pesto! Again, store bought will work just fine if you rather, though.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Pesto and Chicken Sausage
from The Cardigan Kitchen


Ricotta Gnocchi:

1.5 cups flour
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
pinch of kosher salt
pinch of coarse black pepper
15 oz ricotta cheese (full fat)
1 egg


1 bunch parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1/4 cup toasted waluts
2 tb lemon juice
2 tb Parmesan cheese
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup olive oil, plus 2 tb
1 pint sliced mushrooms
6 links First Fresh Chicken Sausage (Italian)


In a medium bowl, combine the flour, grated cheese, seasonings and ricotta cheese using a spoon. Stir in the egg, switching over to your hands if the dough is too difficult to work.

Gather into a ball and place on to a floured surface. Using a bench scraper (or knife) cut into two pieces. Roll each piece into a log a couple inches in width, then cut crosswise into 1 inch pieces. You can do what I do, which is roll the pieces down a fork as demonstrated in this video, or just place the pieces as is on a floured baking sheet.


In a food processor, blend the parsley through red pepper flakes until a paste forms. Stream in olive oil until a desired consistency is reached. You may need to scrape down the sides of the bowl to get it properly combined. Set aside.

Mushrooms and Sausage:

In a medium pan, heat olive oil over medium. Add mushrooms and saute until browned and tender. Place into a large bowl.

In the same pan, cook the sausage over medium high heat, turning frequently. Once cooked on the outside, remove from pan and slice crosswise.

Return to pan and cook over medium heat, seasoning with desired spices (I used cayenne and rosemary salt). When cooked through add to bowl with mushrooms.


Bring a large pot of water to boil (you can start this before cooking the sausage and mushrooms), adding a couple tablespoons of kosher salt.

Once boiling, add the gnocchi. Let them cook at a gentle boil. When they pop up to the surface (about 3 minutes), they’re done! Remove with a slotted spoon and place in bowl with mushrooms and sausage.

Add 1/4 cup of pesto (more or less depending on your taste) and toss all of the components together. Add more Parmesan cheese if desired.


Ricotta Gnocchi and Pesto with Chicken Sausage {recipe}


Special thanks to First Fresh for sending me their sausages to try! Although it was complimentary, thoughts and opinions are my own.