Some foods are just naturally associated with comfort. Mashed potatoes. Mac n’ cheese. Roasted chicken. Chicken curry. They are the things that I find myself making (or, in the case of curry, asking my mother to make) when I’m frustrated and in need of a foodie-hug. This past week was just one of those weeks where nothing seemed to be going my way. I consistently got up late and had to rush in the mornings; I forgot things left and right; I didn’t meet personal deadlines for papers. Mostly, I felt tired and a bit run down. Which of course all culminates in frustration with myself and a need for comfort.
To break my funk, I decided to make gnudi. Having lived with the greatest host family on the planet my junior year, my list of comfort foods has grown to include all things Italian. Gnudi are essentially pasta, designed to emulate the filling of ravioli (hence, they are “nude.” Get it?). They are ricotta-based, mixed with herbs and greens (traditionally spinach), then boiled before being topped with either a simple tomato sauce or some brown butter and sage. Since I was too lazy to dice up tomatoes last night, I opted for the latter.
Despite their appearance, gnudi are incredibly easy to make. They require few ingredients–most of which can be found in your kitchen already. Plus, because they are protein-based, I find that 6-8 of these are incredibly filling, so you wind up with plenty of leftovers.
There is something so wonderful about simple, comfort food. Here’s to a better week ahead. Happy eating!
Gnudi di Spinaci e Ricotta
To be fair, I don’t have a clue from where I got this recipe. I suspect it is the hybrid of a number of recipes, but primarily based on one that I spied in a cookbook at the Duomo Museum, which I foolishly didn’t buy. In any case, I’ll go with an “adapted from the Universe” credit today.
- 1 lb. fresh ricotta cheese (not ricotta salata)
- 1 egg
- About 10 oz fresh spinach or 1 package frozen (thawed)
- Scant ¼ cup shredded dry cheese (i.e. parmesan or pecorino)
- ½ cup AP flour + extra for your hands and to flour your parchment
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon each salt and ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 5-6 sage leaves, torn or left whole
- Line a colander or fine mesh sieve with 2 paper towels. Place the ricotta in the colander and allow to drain for thirty minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
- If using fresh spinach, use the “draining time” to either steam or blanch the greens. I choose to steam them for about 7 minutes over medium heat. All to cool before using.
- Regardless of what type of spinach you are using, dry it. Place in a dishcloth and wring dry. You will probably think after seeing 1 tablespoons of water that you’ve wrung out enough water. Wrong. Do it again. And again. Until your hands can squeeze no more.
- Roughly chop the spinach and add to the bowl with the ricotta.
- Add in the remaining ingredients (using only ½ cup flour. That being said, you may need a little more if it is a humid day as it was in D.C. yesterday). Stir until everything is fully incorporated.
- Lightly flour a large sheet of parchment paper. Using floured hands, form the ricotta mixture into 1-inch (walnut-sized) balls. Place on the floured parchment sheet.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. While the water is heating, take a small mixing bowl and fill with ice water. This is to shock the gnudi and stop the cooking.
- Also, prepare a tupperware/other bowl for storing the gnudi by coating it with one tablespoon of olive oil.
- Place a few gnudi at a time into the boiling water. They will sink to the bottom. After the gnudi float to the top, let them cook for about 2 minutes, then, using a slotted spoon, remove to ice bath. Transfer to the oiled bowl and swirl around to coat. Add more oil as needed to prevent the gnudi from sticking.
- Once the gnudi are done cooking, place a skillet over medium-lowe heat. Melt the butter and allow to brown (the foaming should subside). If it looks like the butter may burn, lower the temperature. This should take a couple of minutes.
- Add the sage leaves, swirl around. At this point, you can either drizzle some of the browned butter over the gnudi you intend to serve or toss a few gnudi into the pan to reheat. I prefer the latter method.
- Serve warm.
Makes 24-30 gnudi, serves 3-4.