Nettle Gnudi, Sage Butter & Pecorino
Nudity has never been so appealing..
A charming name for a delicious thing, gnudi are really just nude ravioli: nuggets of creamy ricotta filling stripped of their pasta jackets.
The real joy of gnudi, apart from their evocative name and their delicious flavour, is how simple they are to make.
No faffing around making and rolling pasta dough. Just a soft, ricotta-based mix, stirred roughly in a bowl, then rolled by hand and plopped in semolina. It is truly child’s play.
Gnudi are also wonderfully versatile. In the winter I like to make mine pure and white. Served like this they resemble little snowballs sitting in a warm puddle of sage butter. In the spring I love to introduce some iron-rich greens to the mix, whether borage, nettles or spinach. In the summer I add some crushed fresh peas to make pale, pistachio-green gnudi.
The following recipe uses nettles, but spinach or borage would work equally well. Just make sure you cook your greens well in salted water and then drain them very thoroughly, or your mixture will be too wet to handle easily.
Recipe (serves 6 as a main course)
400g cooked, drained, chopped greens
1kg fresh sheep’s milk ricotta
140g grated parmesan
1 tsp grated whole nutmeg
2 tsp grated lemon zest
good pinch salt
semolina to coat
pinch of salt
16 sage leaves
80g grated pecorino
grated zest and juice of half a lemon
First cook the greens in a large pan of salted water until tender (mere seconds) then drain them well. Allow them to cool.
When cool, use your hands to squeeze them well, removing any excess liquid.
Chop them roughly with a knife (you can blitz them in a blender if you prefer) and set them aside.
Drain the ricotta well (often it’s sitting in a puddle of liquid). Put it in a large bowl and add the freshly grated parmesan, zest, salt and nutmeg, and your chopped greens. Mix it all together very well, either with a fork or your hands.
Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly.
Pour out a generous (1 inch) layer of fine semolina over a large tray with deep sides.
With clean hands, take small walnut size amounts of the mix and roll them to form perfect spheres.
Place them in the semolina and roll well so they that they have an even coating.
Repeat the process.
Space the balls evenly over the tray and make sure each is well coated in semolina: you should not be able to see any white ricotta at all. Put in the fridge overnight, still on their bed of semolina.
The next day, turn the balls over and roll them briefly in your hands again to remove excess semolina. They should be nice and firm and evenly coated.
Bring a deep pan of well-salted water to the boil and gently drop in your gnudi. After a minute or two they should bob to the surface. Carefully lift them out with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Whilst the gnudi are cooking make your sauce.
Melt the butter in a deep saute pan and add the sage leaves. Allow it to simmer and then add the lemon juice and zest. Add a ladle of your gnudi-cooking water and allow to simmer and reduce until a creamy emulsion is formed. Remove from the heat, add the grated cheese and the gnudi into the pan, stir gently to coat, then serve.