Gnudi are balls of ricotta, generally covered with a fine coating of semolina flour. They are found throughout Italy, from Calabria to Piedmonte. They are found in Tuscany, as ravioli nudi, without flour. One of the best presentations for gnudi is to serve them in their own broth.
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.
Here are two recipes for gnudi, one white, and one green, with spinach, which is a very common way of preparation. These two recipes are adapted not from Tuscany but from a wonderful cook book, Italian Easy, Recipes from the Italian River Cafe. This beautifully designed book (see library) by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, is very special, providing a wonderful variety of simple and easy recipes, using excellent ingredients to provide wonderful taste treats. In addition to buying the book, you should also check out the River Cafe Restaurant when you are in London (see restaurants).
For the white gnudi:
Vigorously stir the ricotta, with the parmesan and the dash of nutmeg.
Roll the mixture into sausage-like rolls, about one inch thick. Cut the rolls into one-inch pieces. Flour your hands (with the semolina) and shape each of the pieces into a round ball.
On a tray, spread the semolina. Roll each of the balls around in the semolina, making sure you get full coverage. When all the balls have been coated, put them back on the tray holding the rest of the semolina. For best results these gnudi should be in the refrigerator overnight, before cooking.
When ready to cook the gnudi, first gently fry the sage leaves in two tablespoons of butter. Put this mixture and the remaining tablespoon of butter in a serving bowl.
Bring four quarts of water to a boil. Add salt. Cook the gnudi in the boiling water until they rise to the surface, which should be about three minutes. Cook another 20 - 30 seconds. Take a slotted spoon and transfer them to the serving bowl with the butter and sage. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve.
For the green gnudi:
Cook the frozen spinach until done. Drain and let cool. Drain the ricotta well, to remove all excess water. Put it in a large ceramic or glass bowl. Briskly beat the ricotta. Stir in the egg yolks, slowly. Add the chopped spinach. Add a dash of salt and pepper, the nutmeg and the parmesan, and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon.
Bring a pot of water, four quarts or so, to a boil.
Flour a board or tray. Form the mixture into a series of one-inch diameter sausage-like rolls. Cut the rolls into one-inch pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and roll it around on the floured board. Make sure the ball is compact, without air pockets, and that the surface is uniformly floured.
Salt the boiling water. Cook the gnudi, probably a few at a time, until they rise to the surface, about three minutes, and then another 20 - 30 seconds.
Use a slotted spoon or skimmer to transfer the finished gnudi directly to a serving dish, or to a different pot of heated broth.
Sprinkle with parmesan, add a touch of sage, and serve. Also: melt four tablespoons of butter and pour over the finished gnudi while serving.
Don't forget to check what's new on http://lanimacafe.co.uk/whats-on