These creamy, pillowy dumplings are a typical dish from Florence called Gnudi that in Florentine dialect means naked. Naked because they are made of the ravioli filling without the pasta dough covering.
The recipe is very simple and use common ingredients that are often found in Florentine households : ricotta, spinach or chard, eggs and parmesan. You can easily make this recipe without even measuring ingredients once you have some practice.
You can serve them also with a butter and sage sauce or with a simply tomato sauce. If you choose the last one you can place 4-5 tablespoon of sauce at the bottom of a plate and then add 6-7 gnudi on top (it depends on the size of your dumplings) and of course some grated parmesan as you wish. I’ll avoid to sauté the gnudi in a pan with the tomato sauce because they might break.
In Italy gnudi is consider a main dish. It’s hearty and filling and you can serve it with a salad or other vegetables.
This dish was my winter comfort food as a child. On the wooden counter in the kitchen my mother used to roll these dumplings and after they were cooked she used to place them in a glass square with butter, cheese and sage on top of the radiator covered with a kitchen towel while setting the table for dinner. Nobody had a microwave, and the cast iron radiator was always in charge of keeping the food warm.
Serves 2-3 people
Ingredients for the dumplings : makes 36 gnudi
16 oz of fresh spinach (using chard or tuscan kale or both is another possible variation. If you use Tuscan kale I advise to boil it in salted water for 5 minutes)
10 oz of cow’s-milk ricotta cheese (I use the Bel Gioioso brand)
4 tbsp of freshly-grated Parmesan + extra to grate on top before serve
1 organic free range egg
1 tsp ground nutmeg
a good pinch of salt and pepper
from 1 to 2 tbsps of plain flour + more flour for rolling the dumplings.
Ingredients for the sauce :
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (or butter if you prefer)
a few leaves of mixed fresh herbs (I used sage, rosemary and thyme)
Ricotta in the USA can have a lot a whey compared to ones you can find in Italy so I recommend to wrap your ricotta with a cloth and let in rest in a bowl in the fridge for 1 hour or so. This will make your ricotta firmer.
Cook the spinach in a big frying pan (without any oil), on medium heat, for a few minutes, until it wilts down. If you don’t have a big frying pan you might want to cook the spinach a little at the time. Let it cool down and then in a colander squeeze them with your hands until no water comes outside. Chop them finely and place it in a bowl with the ricotta cheese, a good pinch of salt and pepper, nutmeg and parmesan cheese. Taste and decide if it needs more salt. Add the egg and If it’s runny add one tablespoon at the time of flour. You want to have a soft dough, still a little bit sticky but not runny.
To make the sauce add the olive oil or butter to the frying pan with the herbs and gently fry for a few minutes.
Turn off the heat and make the dumplings.
Spread some flour on a wooden board (this will prevent the dumplings from sticking). Scoop a tablespoon of batter and give it a rounded shape by using your hands (you want to flour your hands too to make it easier). Repeat until all your dumplings are done. Place them on the wooden board leaving some space between each other to avoid to stick to each other. Cook them in boiling salted water for a few minutes. When they float it means they are ready. Once cooked they should be soft inside and have a thin film all around. Using a skimmer transfer them in the frying pan and gently mix them with a spoon. They are very delicate so be kind! Add some freshly grated parmesan on top and serve hot .
(once you have your dumplings ready you want to cook them quickly and not let them set. They could stick to the wooden board otherwise)