GNUDI!!! pronounce it NYUU-DEE, an Italian food from Tuscany is as it’s name implies, sort of a Nude Ravioli. It’s a dumpling made with ricotta, eggs, spinach, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and just enough flour to bind it so it’s not quite a gnocchi but close. Italian cooking is wonderfully full of dishes that closely resemble each other but nuances in ingredient amount or region make them separate and unique. Fantastic!! Let me give a foodie PSA here while I have your attention. You know that TUSCAN recipe or dish you are eating in a restaurant or making at home? You know, that ULTIMATE TUSCAN soup, chicken, whatever? It’s more than likely NOT TUSCAN. Drives me crazy. As someone who shares food ideas and knowledge calling something TUSCAN when it’s not drives me insane. Imagine this for a minute…in Italy…at a restaurant or supermarket/store selling American foods…there’s an item called….NEW YORK CAJUN GUMBO….or KANSAS LOBSTER…or MIDWESTERN CLAM CHOWDER….clearly you get my drift. Louisiana gets the gumbo…Maine gets the Lobster…New England or Manhattan get the Clam Chowder. The term TUSCAN gets placed on any dish someone (usually a corporate boardroom) wants to for marketing purposes. People are attracted to that term thinking it’s bona fide Tuscan food, or the implication is that all Italian food is Tuscan, or that the American created dish is Tuscan. Let me do my part to promote real Tuscan influenced food by giving you this recipe I came up with using a Tuscan dumpling and some of the more common Tuscan ingredients..spinach, pumpkin, sage.
Gnudi can be eaten out of the pot, or with butter, or pan toasted, or lightly sauced with butter based sauces, or tomato sauce. A recent batch of gnudi I made, after poaching them i let them “dry” for 2 hours then toasted them in butter till they took on a golden brown crust then simply sauced them with sauteed onions, pumpkin puree, butter, sage, parmigiano-reggiano or Grana Padano, black pepper, and Vin Santo (Spanish sherry makes a decent substitute if you can’t find the Vin Santo).
serves: 4 time: 3 hours (which includes the time to let the gnudi dry)
First, the GNUDI
1 CUP WHOLE MILK RICOTTA, DRAINED
1 CUP CHOPPED FROZEN SPINACH, THAWED AND SQUEEZED VERY DRY (important!!)
1 CUP FRESH GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO
3 LARGE EGG YOLKS (ORGANIC WORK BEST) at ROOM TEMPERATURE
1 CUP SIFTED ALL PURPOSE FLOUR OR TIPO 00 from ITALY
1/8 TSP EACH OF FRESH GRATED NUTMEG, KOSHER SALT, FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER
2 TBS UNSALTED BUTTER
You can use a food processor or bowl for this. Mix together the Ricotta, Spinach, Parmigiano, and yolks. Pulse or mix till blended. Add the nutmeg, salt and black pepper. Mix. Now gently add in the flour until fully incorporated. Let sit for 5 minutes. NOW to form the GNUDI. Some are made in the small oval shape like I do and some are made in the same size, just under 1 inch, in a ball. Keep the size and shape uniform for consistent cooking. As you make them, lay them onto a kitchen towel covered baking sheet. Bring a large pot of water to the boil. When you have finished the gnudi and they’ve rested, gently drop them into the boiling water. Let them cook and as they are ready, they will float to the top of the pot. Takes up to 5 minutes. I use the 5 minute mark as my gauge. Using a slotted spoon or kitchen spider transfer the drained gnudi to a parchment paper lined sheet pat. Leave these to dry out now for no less than one hour.
1 MEDIUM ONION, DICED FINE
6 TABLESPOONS UNSALTED BUTTER (EUROPEAN STYLE OR EUROPEAN WORKS BEST)
2 TBS OF VIN SANTO OR SPANISH SHERRY
1/2 CUP PURE PUMPKIN PUREE (PUMPKIN ONLY)
1/8 CUP RESERVED GNUDI COOKING WATER
2 SAGE LEAVES, WHOLE
4 CHOPPED FRESH SAGE LEAVES
FRESHLY GRATED PARMIGIANO-REGGIANO OR GRANA PADANO TO TASTE
SLIGHT GRATING OF FRESH NUTMEG AND /OR BLACK PEPPER
In a wide heavy bottomed pan melt the butter and then add the onions…bring to medium and let them slowly get soft. Takes about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the 2 sage leaves. Now add the Vin Santo or Sherry. Let cook for 2 mintues then stir in the pumpkin puree. Add the reserved cooking water and bring pan to boil then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 5 minutes. Now back to the GNUDI.
In a skillet heat the 2 tbs of butter and gently toast the gnudi on both sides, taking care not to overload the pan. You may need to do this in 2 batches. TOO MUCH CROWDING IN A PAN CREATES STEAM AND YOU LOSE THE BROWNING AND EVERYTHING IS RUINED!!!!!! When you have a nice color on the GNUDI like this:you are now ready to sauce them. Bring the pan of Pumpkin Onion Sage sauce up to medium heat and gently add the gnudi and make sure you coat all the gnudi with the sauce. TAKE NOTE: I’m saucing it in the Italian manner…as Lidia tells us..”Sauce is merely a CONDIMENTO, the star is the pasta!”…You always want the pasta to shine through, however I understand that most Americans are used to much more sauce on their pasta then they would have in Italy. Want more sauce on this? Simply double the recipe. Tutti i gusti son gusti!! (Everyone to their own tastes)…back to my recipe. After you’ve coated all the gnudi and it’s heated thru for a good 3 minutes remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped sage, nutmeg and grated cheese to taste. Serve. I’m starving now as I type all this. It’s such a tasty dish. As always, thank you for letting me into your kitchens….enjoy this little bit of Tuscany, I actually think the region around Siena is noted for their gnudi. BUONA CUCINA!!