Saturday | November 28, 2015
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Gnudi might make you forget ravioli

Get your gnudi on

Ricotta Gnudi

Adapted from "The Geometry of Pasta" (Quirk, $24.95), by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. If the ricotta seems wet, let it drain in a sieve, about 30 minutes.


Mix together 1 cup whole milk ricotta, 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano, 1 egg and five to six tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a little freshly grated nutmeg to taste. Let sit so the breadcrumbs thicken the mixture, 30 minutes.

Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Roll the dough into 20-30 small balls with well-floured hands, placing them on a floured baking sheet. You want plenty of flour on the outside of each ball to make a protective skin on the naked mixture.

Carefully slip them into the boiling water. After they bob to the surface, cook two minutes. Remove from pot with a slotted spoon. Serve with more pecorino or with a sauce of your choice.

Makes: 20-30 gnudi, 4 servings

Spinach Gnudi

Adapted from "The Italian Cooking Course" (Kyle, $29.95), by Katie Caldesi.


Cook 12 ounces fresh spinach in a large pot until wilted. Allow to cool; squeeze to remove water. Chop it finely in a food processor. Mix together in a bowl with 8 ounces whole milk ricotta (drained), one egg yolk, 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg and pepper to taste.

Form small dumplings with your hands, using about two teaspoons mixture per dumpling. (Tightly pack the mixture so it won’t break up in the water.) Place gnudi on a floured surface, making sure they don’t touch each other.

Heat a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat; add the gnudi, in batches, being careful not to crowd them. After gnudi float to the surface, cook, 2-4 minutes. Lift them out with a slotted spoon; transfer to a warm serving dish coated with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining gnudi.

Meanwhile, for the sauce, melt 1/2 stick salted butter with 6 large fresh sage leaves in a large skillet. Toss the cooked gnudi in the butter sauce. Serve, sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan.

Makes: 30 gnudi, serves 4 as main course; 6 as starter

You know how a word you’ve just learned suddenly begins popping up everywhere? Well, gnudi have been doing virtually the same lately, showing up on menus in restaurants I’ve visited and in cookbooks I’ve been reading.

But just as that new vocabulary word was always out there, you just hadn’t noticed it, gnudi have been around for centuries. And I knew about them for years. I just hadn’t made them or even tasted them.

Gnudi are little ricotta dumplings, best thought of as ravioli filling without the pasta enveloping it. The Italian word “gnudi” means “nudes,” so it’s like nude ravioli. (They are sometimes called ravioli gnudi.) Or ravioli guts. They are similar to gnocchi but much lighter and much easier to make.

I got around to trying gnudi a couple of months ago.

With some super-fresh ricotta — essential for the best flavor — languishing in the fridge, I decided to take the plunge, following a recipe from “The Geometry of Pasta,” by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. The method is simple: Mix ricotta, flour, egg, grated cheese and seasonings together. (“The Geometry of Pasta” calls for breadcrumbs to bind the dumplings, instead of flour.) Mold into small balls with your hands. Cook in boiling water.

I found gnudi date from at least the late 1200s, according to Oretta Zanini de Vita in “Encyclopedia of Pasta,” and predate stuffed pasta.

It’s easy to see why gnudi stuck around. They came out tender and delicious. And although forming the little guys was time-consuming (a small spring-loaded cookie scoop, one or two teaspoon measure, helps), the gnudi were so easy to make.

If you’ve shied away from making homemade ravioli, maybe this project is your warm-up.

Or just make gnudi instead and forget the pasta.


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