"Gnudi" means what you think it does! The name refers to the fact that these are "naked" ravioli, i.e. ravioli filling without the surrounding pasta. While we love these ricotta balls with a sage and butter sauce, you can also cook them in a simmering tomato sauce!
Watch the Pasta Grammar video where we make this recipe here:
For this recipe, you will need:
- 1/2 lb. (225g) baby spinach
- 1 1/8 cup (250g) ricotta
- Fresh black pepper
- Ground nutmeg
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste
- 1 large egg
- All-purpose flour (amount will vary, see below)
- 4 tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3-4 fresh sage leaves
Bring a pot of water to boil and salt it generously. Add the spinach and stir. Boil until the leaves are very soft and tender. Drain the spinach.
Let the spinach cool to the touch and squeeze out the excess water. If you're in a rush, you can do so while it's still hot by using a mesh sifter and a bowl as we did in the video above. Finely chop the spinach and place it into a large mixing bowl.
Add the ricotta and a generous pinch each of salt, pepper and nutmeg. Also add the egg and grated cheese to taste. There's no right or wrong amount! Stir all together and season it again to taste. Don't be afraid to add more cheese if you think the mixture needs it.
In order to keep the gnudi from completely dissolving when cooked, flour must be mixed into the dough. The amount needed will vary a lot depending on how wet your ricotta is. In the end, you want a dough that is soft but firm enough that it can be rolled by hand into balls. Start with a little bit and keep adding more until you achieve the correct consistency.
The best way to add the flour is to dust it through a fine mesh sieve but this isn't strictly necessary.
Now it's time to roll! Pour some all-purpose flour onto a plate for breading. Scoop up a small palmful of dough and roll it into a ball (it should be about 2-inches or 5cm in diameter). Toss the ball in flour until it is completely coated and set aside. Repeat until all of the gnudi are made.
Bring a large pot of water to boil and salt it. Meanwhile, add the butter and sage leaves into a large skillet over low heat. The idea is to lightly brown and caramelize the butter. If you feel you have a good sense of the timing, you can cook the gnudi as the butter browns. Otherwise, brown the butter first and turn off the heat while you boil the gnudi.
To cook the gnudi, gently drop them one at a time into the boiling water. Don't overcrowd the pot; it's better to cook them in batches if necessary. Don't touch them at first. This is the moment of truth! If they're well-made, the will stay intact.
After the gnudi have boiled for 30 seconds or so, very gently stir them to keep them moving a bit. When they are cooked, they will float up to the surface of the water. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer them into the butter sauce.
Turn the heat up to medium and gently swirl the pan around. Occasionally baste the gnudi with butter. Continue to cook them for 2-3 minutes so they absorb some sauce.
Serve immediately, drizzled with extra butter from the pan. Buon appetito!