In Tuscan dialect the word gnudi means literally ‘naked‘, it indicates the ricotta and vegetable balls of this traditional dish of Tuscan, typical of Maremma and Mugello areas, are essentially the filling of vegetarian ravioli, without the pasta to ‘cover’ it.
Tuscany culinary tradition calls for spinach, althought they can also be done with nettle or swiss chard sometimes. In the past, being still a poor dish, if there were no spinach or beets, they were substituted with wild herbs.
Gnudi are usually served with melted butter and sage leaves, sprinkled with a bit of Parmigiano (or Pecorino), just like in this recipe; they’re however excellent also accompanied by some bechamel or by a light tomato sauce.
This is also a smart way to let your children being happy to eat spinach if they usually don’t.
Serves: 4 | Preparation time: 30 mins | Cooking time: 15 mins
- Spinach, fresh: 350 g
- Sheep’s ricotta: 200 g
- Butter, unsalted: 50 g
- Parmigiano, grated: 50 g
- Plain flour: 30-40 g
- Garlic: 2 cloves
- Egg: 1
- Sage, fresh: 6-7 leaves
- Nutmeg: ½ tsp
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO): to taste
- Salt and pepper: to taste
Fresh spinach gives the best results, but you can also use the frozen ones if needs be. Just make sure to defrost it completely before you start to cook.
Put raw spinach directly in a pan along with some Evoo oil and the garlic and season to taste. Set aside.
Tip: You can also blanch spinach for a few minutes in unsalted boiling water, remove it from the water with a skimmer and squeeze it well to get rid of as much water as possible. Then brown them in a pan along with some Evoo oil and the garlic as mentioned above. If you chose this method, do not throw away the water, set it aside so you’ll use it later.
Crush ricotta with a fork to make it creamier and break all the lumps. Add the spinach just seasoned, grated Parmigiano, egg, flour, a pinch of nutmeg and a bit of salt. Mix thoroughly.
Shape ricotta and spinach mixture into balls-shape or oval-shape; coat them with a bit of flour to prevent them from sticking to each other or to your work surface.
Melt the butter in a pan and brown the sage leaves. Keep the butter warm without burning it.
Bring to boil a pot of water or bring to boil the water in which you cooked the spinach in which you have blanched them previously and in both cases add salt to it. Plunge gently the ricotta/spinach balls and let them cook until they float to the surface, then immediately remove them from the water with a skimmer and place them in the pan with the warm butter and sage.
Tip: Gnudi don’t have to be fried, only briefly and gently sauté for a few seconds and mostly without stirring them, only turning the frying pan so to move the butter and you won’t risk breaking them.
A handful of Parmigiano or Pecorino and serve immediately right away.
Can you store them?
Gnudi should preferably be consumed freshly made.
However, once made and un-cooked, they can be kept in the fridge clingfilm covered for a maximum of 12 hours.
They can be frozen for about 1 month and then boiled still frozen, but once cooked, they have to be eaten within the same day.