Ricotta Gnudi

More Top Chef ... Did anyone catch this? I was watching an old episode and one of the judges mumbled something about gnudi and the way the chef had prepared it.  I reversed and listened again. Yep. They called it gnudi and the recipe title was spelled out on the screen. Not nudie, but gnudi. This particular chef served his gnudi fried, with scallops.

I didn't have a clue what gnudi was. Imagine my surprise to find out it's little cooked pillows of ricotta cheese, used exactly like pasta, and related to gnocchi. And it's pronounced the way you'd think: NU-DEE. Think "nude" ravioli: filling without the pasta around it —  light, fluffy and creamy.

This seems to be a month for discovering new things, so I decided to find a recipe and make it. Zen Can Cook suggested using fresh ricotta to make gnudi and I thought it was a great idea. (You can use regular ricotta too, just let it drain for an hour or so.) I remembered Heidi at 101 Cookbooks  had a recipe for making your own ricotta and it was so simple I could hardly believe it. You can find her recipe HERE and at the very end of this post, a photo of my efforts. Fellow blogger Reeni  posted a recipe for spinach gnudi recently so perhaps I'm a little late to the gnudi party.....

Zen made his without using flour in the ricotta, which may have been what caused so many problems for him; his ricotta was wet and he was frustrated several times before he got it to work: " if your ricotti is not dry enough it will collapse into a pitiful puddle of cheese at the contact of boiling water or hot butter… believe me, I went there."
So, sorry about this, gluten-free readers, but I ended up with another recipe for gnudi that uses flour. As a result, I had no problems. Then I proceeded to form and cook the gnudi the way Zen suggested.

After that, I switched to a mushroom gnudi recipe I found in an old Bon Appetit; you know how much I love mushrooms. They had a super idea to flash fry some proscuitto and sage to garnish the dish. It was a brilliant idea (and I'm going to use it for some other dishes)...it tastes just like bacon and looked marvelous on top of the dish.

An additional note: there is some resting and refrigeration time involved, so read the recipe through before starting.

Now, the photo that accompanies the recipe is exactly the way it's supposed to look, but for some odd reason when I plated it, I didn't put nearly enough of the sauce on the plate. Trust me, there is plenty of sauce!

Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Sauce
Bon Appétit, January 2007

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce) plus additional for serving
1/2 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of ground white pepper
1-2 cups semolina for coating gnudi


5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
6 thin prosciutto slices
12 whole fresh sage leaves

Mushroom sauce:

2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms (such as crimini, oyster, and stemmed shiitake), sliced
2 large shallots, chopped
6 fresh thyme sprigs
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 teaspoon black truffle oil
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) chilled butter, diced

If you are using regular ricotta: Line a bowl with several layers of paper towels. Spoon the ricotta cheese into bowl. Let drain at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. 

If you are using homemade ricotta, ignore this step. The ricotta will be dry enough.

Beat egg, 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and white pepper in large bowl to blend. Mix in ricotta.  Spread half the semolina in a pie pan. Put the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a #9 or #10 tip and pipe blobs (or drop 1 tablespoon at a time) onto the semolina. Cover with the remaining semolina (it should look like the Sahara Desert at this point) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours.

When ready to proceed, pick up the gnudi from the semolina brushing off the excess, and roll them in the palm of your hands one by one to form little sausage shapes . Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 24 hours) until ready to use. (This also helps to ‘set’ the skin.)

When ready to cook, bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Cook gnudi until tender, about 5 minutes.

For garnishes:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot or extra-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 prosciutto slices. Cook until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining prosciutto. Add whole sage leaves to pot; sauté until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to paper towels.

For sauce:
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in same pot over medium-high heat. Add all mushrooms, shallots, thyme, and chopped sage. Sauté until mushrooms brown and liquids evaporate, about 12 minutes. Transfer mixture to bowl. Add broth to same pot and boil until slightly reduced, scraping up browned bits, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon truffle oil and mushroom mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. do ahead Sauce can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.

Cook the gnudi as described above.

Meanwhile, rewarm sauce. Add butter; toss until blended. Using strainer, transfer gnudi to pot with sauce. Toss over medium heat until sauce coats gnudi. Season with salt and pepper.
Transfer to large shallow bowl. Crumble prosciutto over. Top with sage leaves; serve with additional Pecorino.


Making Ricotta: