THE ART OF ITALIAN DINING
She called me the day before and asked if I would have liked, while On-Air, to also share a couple of pasta recipes. “Of course,” I answered. ‘Where there is pasta there is Gabe.’
Although us Tuscans eat less pasta than our compatriots in other parts of Italy, the pasta dishes that can be found in Florence and its surroundings are both simple and delicious.
Fresh egg pasta is made throughout Tuscany. In the north, filled pasta such as tortelli and ravioli are common, a reflection of the cuisines of neighboring Emilia-Romagna and Liguria respectively. The filling depends again on location and season, with chestnuts, cheese, potatoes, spinach, other cultivated greens, nettles and herbs taking precedence. To the south of the region, particular in Siena, pici, a rustic type of hand-made spaghetti, is popular.
But also produced in the area of Siena and Grosseto are ‘Gnudi’ (pronounced nyoo-dee ) a classic Tuscan dish of rare simplicity and flavors. One of the few that I have always equally loved eating and cooking with our clients raving about it.
“Jan,” I yelled over the phone “Screw the pasta, we are making an X-rated dish called Gnudi.”
That wasn’t true. We didn’t end up ‘screwing’ the pasta. We actually made some wonderful Truffle Tagliolini with Mascarpone Cheese and Pine nuts but the gnudi were definitely where everybody’s attention was on!
Yes, I agree with you. The name sounds like something you might have done on a remote beach and maybe some of us actually have (that’s why I spend my summers in Europe)! In fact, in Italian, gnudi means what it sounds like in English: naked.
It refers to little pasta-like dumplings that are “naked” of their pasta wrapper, raviolis without anything to enclose them. Gnudi are a bit like gnocchi, but they have far less flour and so are pillowy in the way that gnocchi never are. A type of dumpling also called malfatti (“badly made” in Italian, because of their sloppy shape) is made from fresh high quality ricotta and spinach, the same ingredients commonly used as the filling for ravioli or tortelli. A little bit of salt, pepper, nutmeg, a couple of eggs to bind everything together and…PRONTO!
The sauce? Dress them with a simple butter and sage sauce and sprinkle them with a good shave of Parmigiano Reggiano. You are golden.
Let’s be honest. Most everyone likes the concept of gnocchi, but being especially prone to overkneading and overcooking, gnocchi can be a hard, chewy downer. Gnocchi lovers often mention the word ‘pillowy’ when gushing about it, but pillowy gnocchi is a rare experience.
And this is why I wanted to finally share this recipe. These little melt-in-your-mouth dumplings have created something of a culinary craze among our clients and friends always raising the question “What’s in it?!”.
Now you know. Go in the kitchen and try to make some nude Italian gnocchi.
Can’t wait to see what kind of readers are going to stumble across my blog now that the words “nude Italian” are on here…
RICOTTA SPINACH NUDE GNOCCHI
Put the spinach with just the water clinging to the leaves after washing into a large pan. Cook over low heat, turning over or twice for about 3 minutes, until wilted. Drain well, squeezing out as much liquid as possible, and chop very finely. Tip into a bowl and stir in the ricotta, pecorino cheese, eggs and flour. Add the nutmeg and season with salt and pepper.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil. Turn down the heat so that the water is now only gently simmering. Using a teaspoon, shape small rounded dumplings from the ricotta mixture, dust with four and add to the pan.
Cook in batches for 2-3 minutes until they float to the surface Remove with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper (paper towel) and transfer to warmed serving dish. Melt butter with sage in another pan until lightly brown then pour this over the dumplings, generously sprinkle with pecorino cheese or Parmesan and serve.