Gnudi with Meat Sauce

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The first time I heard about gnudi, I was ecstatic. And I was also shocked that I hadn’t come across them before, in spite of the many Italian cookbooks I own. It was maybe only five years ago I saw them being made on television, and I knew one day I’d make them. I just sadly forgot about them, until today.

Gnudi, simply stated, are the filling of ravioli. Or any filled pasta. No pasta involved. So they’re like the lazy man’s ravioli!

Today, mine are simple, utilizing the richness and unique texture of ricotta. But any ingredients can be included with the ricotta, just as you would to make a spinach-ricotta filling, or a pumpkin-ricotta filling.

They’re similar to gnocchi and spazele, except that there’s much less flour, which makes sense, since they are the filling and not the pasta. Here’s the recipe.
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Gnudi with Meat Sauce

Gnudi:
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon salt
20 ounces whole-milk ricotta, well drained*
3/4 cup loosely-packed, finely grated Parmesan
3/4 cup flour, plus extra

Begin by whisking the eggs, yolks, and salt together in a large bowl.

Add the ricotta and whisk well.

Then add the Parmesan and whisk until smooth.

Add the flour and fold into the ricotta mixture gently. If you feel more flour is needed – add more – but just a little at a time. The gnudi must end up tender.

Sprinkle a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with a light dusting of flour.
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Typically, gnudi are shaped into quenelles, which are beautiful ovoids. Unfortunately, even if I could make these forms, which requires two spoons, I wouldn’t be fast enough to get through the gnudi batter before the water completely evaporated. So I opted for a little cookie scoop.

Dip the scoop in water, tap, then scoop up the gnudi.

Place them on the floured sheet, and then sprinkle a little more flour over the top of the gnudi, using a fine sieve.

Once you have finished with all the batter, let the gnudi sit for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, get a large pot of water boiling on the stove.

As I do with spazele, I always test one to get the timing right. In this case, my little 1″ round gnudi took 5 minutes to cook. You don’t want them raw in the middle, but you don’t want them to be like rubber.

As with spazele, the gnudi will drop to the bottom of the pot, and about halfway through cooking they will come to the surface. When they’re cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon, and place them on a paper towel-lined platter.

Once you know the timing of the gnudi, make them in batches until the batter is no more.

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I served these with a meat sauce (recipe below), but because I didn’t want the meat sauce to smother the delicate gnudi, I placed the sauce on the bottom of the bowl, topped it with the warm gnudi, and sprinkled on a little Parmesan.

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These ricotta-based gnudi are like soft little pillows of goodness.

I would normally not pair the gnudi with such a heavy sauce, but my husband isn’t fond of meatless red sauce. Just like with gnocchi and spazele, the gnudi could be simply tossed in browned butter.

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* I only buy whole-milk ricotta, and I always let it drain on paper towels overnight or at least for 12 hours. It just makes the ricotta thicker and creamier. It’s amazing how much water comes out.
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Meat Sauce:
Olive oil
Finely chopped onion or shallots
Minced garlic
Ground Italian sausage
Canned tomato puree or crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves

Fresh Ricotta

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Last Christmas I received some wonderful food-related gifts from my lovely daughters, who know me so well. One was a Williams-Sonoma “kit” for making ricotta cheese at home.

I know it’s really straight forward to make your own ricotta. It’s the same process as making paneer for Indian food, if you’ve ever done that.

But having a ricotta-making kit makes it more fun. It’s like having a chemistry set. Having been a nerd growing up, I loved my chemistry set and I obviously still love that sort of thing.

Here what came in the box:

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The rennet tablets is for using the kit to make mozzarella, which I didn’t do today. The directions are simple. Add 1 teaspoon of citric acid to 1/2 cup of water and dissolve.
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Use the enclosed cheesecloth to line a colander.
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Boil the pot you’re going to put your gallon of milk in, along with a slotted spoon, for 5 minutes to sterilize. You’re not supposed to use a metal pot.

Empty the pot of the boiling water, then pour in the gallon of whole milk. Add the dissolved citric acid, as well as 1 teaspoon of cheese salt.

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Slowly heat the milk, without allowing it to boil, till it reaches 180 – 185 degrees Farenheit.
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Turn off the stove at that point and let the pot sit for 10 minutes. Then pour the contents of the pot into the waiting colander.
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After just a few minutes, I lifted the corners of the cheesecloth, and you can already see that the ricotta is thickening and forming.
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I don’t want a watery ricotta, so I tied up the “bag” of ricotta and hung it from my kitchen sink faucet for about 1 hour. I think this is allowed.

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Then I stored the fresh ricotta in a plastic bowl lined with a couple of paper towels.

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