This dish is simply divine! Creamy, melt-in-your-mouth ricotta dumplings are adorned in a garlic-and-olive-oil tomato sauce. With just a few simple ingredients, you have an epic dish that will become your go-to recipe for impressing your guests.
This is a hidden gem on the Bon Appetit website! When I first spotted this recipe several years ago, it reminded me of a similiar dish that my mom and my nonna used to prepare. The ricotta dumplings are rolled into golf-size balls and then simmered in the tomato sauce. This recipe, however, uses two spoons to make the dumplings, which are then gently boiled in a pot of water, and then tossed with tomato sauce.
These delightful dumplings are called Gnudi (pronounced nu-dee, with a nasal ‘n’). It is a typical rustic peasant dish from Tuscany, made with spinach and ricotta. The story goes that many moons ago, someone didn’t feel like making the pasta dough for ravioli, so they simply rolled the filling between two spoons, and called them ‘naked ravioli‘. They can be served with a simple tomato sauce, but I prefer them with browned butter and sage. Yum!
I was curious if Italians make gnudi only with ricotta, but a quick google search proved that the variation with spinach is more traditional. There are several recipes for ricotta gnudi, but they are rolled by hand and look more like a round gnoccho (singular for gnocchi), instead of a football-shaped dumpling.
So, this recipe for ricotta gnudi with pomodoro sauce is unique. And exquisite. Many bloggers have raved about this delicacy. Here is a delightful example. 🙂
The sauce is rich, smooth, and velvety. Unlike my quick marinara sauce, this sauce is more traditional. Chopped garlic is lightly browned in olive oil and then the sauce is added. If the garlic happens to get too dark, remove it and add fresh garlic. The burnt garlic will taste bitter and unpleasant.
Now, if you haven’t read the recipe’s list of ingredients yet, then let me you warn you that it calls for a lot of olive oil … a half cup full. I don’t mind, though. It tastes exactly like the one my nonna in Calabria used to make. She was never afraid of using a lot of oil in her cooking. Everyone used to complain about the amount of fat in her sauces, but once they took a bite, there was only silence at the table. 🙂
The only change I make from the original recipe is that I substitute a jar of pomodoro passato (unseasoned pureed tomato sauce) for the large can of whole peeled tomatoes. I’m saving myself a bit of time by not having to puree the tomatoes (not to mention the clean up afterwards). The only other tip I recommend is to use a good quality tomato sauce. They don’t have to be San Marzano tomatoes, but the better quality will have less acidity.
The filling is a simple concoction of ricotta, eggs, grated Italian hard cheese, and flour. It calls for an extra egg yolk, giving the dumplings more fluffiness and tenderness. However, the egg yolk does add moisture to the mixture, so more flour needs to be added. I added about an extra half cup’s worth. The mixture should feel a bit dense and should hold it’s shape when rolled. If time permits, then strain the ricotta for a minimum of 4 hours, or overnight and you won’t need as much flour. If you use homemade ricotta, it really brings this dish to another level of goodness. 🙂
The best way to tell if you added enough flour is to run a spoon in the middle of the batter and it should feel a little resistant. The valley you just created should stay in place or hold it’s shape. If not, then add a little more flour, one tablespoon at a time.
I had never rolled dumplings using two spoons until I came across this recipe. If you have never done this either, then watch this short video on how to do it. It’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it, and don’t stress yourself if you’re not getting perfectly smooth edges. They will taste the same. 🙂
When I made these the first time, I followed the recipe as written, and dusted a baking sheet with lots of flour. I thought it was too messy and I had flour all over my kitchen (I can be a messy cook when it comes to flour LOL). Generously greasing a large dinner plate or serving dish with oil (but not dripping), will help prevent the dumplings from sticking. They also slide nicely into the pot of water. I find that using oil is not as messy as flour (in my humble opinion).
The recipe says that it makes 30 dumplings, but I got 20 the first time I made them. The amount will vary, depending on how big you make them. I recently rolled them a bit smaller and I got 31 gnudi (see photos below).
The lighting in these photos is off because they were taken with my iPad (and the weather couldn’t make up it’s mind, whether to stay cloudy or sunny). At the time, my husband had gone away on a business trip and had taken the camera with him. So, I used what I had on hand. The dumplings in the left photo are uncooked, and the right ones on the right are shortly after they had been simmered.
In these photos, notice how the water is not boiling. A gentle simmer is okay, but if it is a rolling boil, the dumplings will fall apart. I set the burner on the lowest setting, and let them float to the surface when they are ready. I don’t recall how long it took for the gnudi to cook, but in this case, patience is a virtue. You’ll know they’re ready when they come to the top and the ‘doughy look’ is gone. I always cook mine in two batches.
TIP: These dumplings can be made a day or two in advance and stored in the fridge (same with the sauce). Reheat the sauce and bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop in the dumplings and heat them thoroughly through. Gnudi can also be frozen. There is no need to unthaw. Simply add them to the simmering water. They will just take a few minutes longer to reheat.
These little clouds of goodness are waiting to be devoured. Go … no … run to the kitchen to make these. You won’t be disappointed.
RICOTTA GNUDI WITH POMODORO SAUCE
1 28-oz (700-800 g) can or jar tomato puree (pomodoro passata)
1/2 cup (125 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 tsp sugar
Salt, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook until it starts to turn lightly brown. Remove skillet from heat, let it sit for a minute till the sizzling subsides, and carefully add the tomato puree. Return pan to burner, turn heat up to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low, and gently simmer until the sauce is slightly reduced, about 10-15 minutes. In the meantime, begin making the ricotta gnudi.
2 cups (16 oz or 500 g) ricotta, drained of excess liquid
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
½ cup (65 g) finely grated Grana Padano or Parmesan
½ cup (70 g) all-purpose flour, plus more (about ½ cup or 70 g )
Mix all the ingredients in a medium or large bowl until it forms a ball. If the ricotta mixture feels wet, then add extra flour, one tablespoon at a time, until it feels a little resistant and it holds it’s shape.
Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour (or oil one or two dinner plates). Using two large soup spoons, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into football shapes, and place on baking sheet (or oiled plates). Dust with more flour or brush with oil.
Cook gnudi in a medium or large pot of boiling salted water (they won’t stick together), stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 5-6 minutes (gnudi will quickly float to surface but continue cooking or the gnudi will be gummy/raw in the center).
Remove gnudi using a slotted spoon. Divide gnudi among bowls or place them on a large serving dish. Top with Quick Pomodoro Sauce and more Italian cheese.
NOTE: Gnudi can be made a day or two in advance and gently reheated in simmering water. They can also be frozen. Don’t unthaw them. Simply add them to the pot of water and thoroughly heat through.
MAKES 20-30 DUMPLINGS
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit