Spinach Gnudi

Gnudi (pronounced “nu-dee”) is a type of gnocchi (have I lost you here?) made from ricotta cheese and a little bit of flour. The result is a dumpling that some describe as “nude” ravioli, or filling without the pasta — which I think is a much more accurate description than anything resembling gnocchi, most often a small, potato dumpling.

This recipe, adapted from The Foodie Physician is simple and produces consistently good results.  It can be seen as a starting point because beyond the inclusion of ricotta, egg and flour, there is room to explore and stretch your wings.  Maybe Swiss chard instead of spinach? Or a sauce of sherried wild mushrooms?  Would full-fat ricotta cheese, or better yet homemade ricotta, elevate this dish? Absolutely, and I might be tempted to explore either of these options if serving gnudi in a more buttoned up setting. For a family dinner or easy entertaining, this convenient and calorie conscious variation works better than “just fine.”  The same goes for the tomato sauce recipe below.  It’s a quick, simple sauce that is well-received in my home. By all means, feel free to swap it out for your favorite sauce–homemade or jarred, we’re all juggling and dinner’s on the table, right?

These Spinach Gnudi  are easy enough to make on a weeknight, tame enough to be certified “kid-friendly” and interesting enough to serve to guests.  They would make a perfect first course at a more formal Italian-style dinner party where the second course would be a meat dish.  When I make them, alongside I usually serve a green vegetable sauteed in garlic and olive oil (the aforementioned chard or broccoli rabe) or a simple salad dressed with oil and vinegar.

Do be sure to squeeze all the water from the spinach so that you don’t compromise the consistency of the dough–you want it to be thick and sticky.  And, don’t skip the “chill stage” which will slightly firm up the gnudi and ensure that they don’t fall apart when cooking in simmering water. If you are serving these for guests, you can leave them chilling and boil just before serving.  With the sauce bubbling on the stove and the water ready to go, dinner can be on the table in less than five minutes.  Delizioso!

Spinach Gnudi

Spinach Gnudi

Spinach Gnudi
Serves 4
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Gnudi
  1. 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  2. 1 package (10 oz) frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and squeezed very dry
  3. 4 large egg yolks
  4. 1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino-Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for garnish
  5. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  6. ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  7. ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  8. 1 cup all-purpose flour, divided use
Simple Tomato Sauce
  1. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  2. 1/2 small yellow onion chopped
  3. 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  4. 1 tsp crushed red pepper, optional
  5. 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  6. 1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  7. 1/2 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  8. 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  9. pinch of sugar
  10. 1/4 cup julienned fresh basil, optional
  11. a ladle of cooking water, optional
To Make Gnudi
  1. Mix the ricotta, spinach, egg yolks, Pecorino, nutmeg, salt and pepper together in a medium bowl until well combined.
  2. Stir in 1/2 cup flour until a sticky dough forms.
  3. Pile the remaining 1/2 cup of flour on a cutting board or plate.
  4. Drop a large spoonful of the dough (the size of a ping-pong ball) onto the flour and lightly toss it around in the flour until it is coated. Gently form the dough into a ball with your hands, shaking off any excess flour.
  5. Repeat with the remaining dough.  You should have about 24 gnudi in total.
  6. Chill the gnudi on a plate in the fridge for 15 minutes while you make the sauce.
To Make Sauce
  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, red pepper (if using) and oregano and cook for another 1-2 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes.
  2. Season the sauce with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar.  Simmer the sauce for a few minutes and then stir in the basil. if using.
  3. If sauce is too thick, thin at the end by adding some of the gnudi cooking water, one ladle-full at a time.
To Cook Gnudi
  1. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer.  Working in batches, place the gnudi on a slotted spoon and gently lower them into the water.  Cook the gnudi until they float to the surface of the water, about 4 minutes.  Carefully remove them with the slotted spoon.
To Serve
  1. Spoon some tomato sauce into each shallow bowl and place the gnudi on top.  Garnish with grated cheese.
Adapted from "The Foodie Physician"
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