Tender little dumplings, as fragile as a pasta filling, which is how they got their name: gnudi is Tuscan dialect for ‘naked’ (and Michelangelo’s paintings of nude figures in the Sistine Chapel were referred to as ignudi). I adore these. They take a bit of time to make, but I love the process; you need a light touch, as forming them is like handling flowers.
- 250g ricotta, preferably fresh rather than UHT
- 470g spinach, coarse stalks removed
- 30g unsalted butter, plus 50g to serve
- ¼ small onion, very finely chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 100g finely grated Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
- freshly grated nutmeg
- 30g plain flour, plus more to dust
- sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the ricotta in a sieve lined with muslin or a brand new J-cloth and leave for a couple of hours to let the excess moisture drain away.
- Wash the spinach and put it in a large pan with the water that’s left clinging to the leaves.
- Cover and set over a medium heat to wilt for 5–6 minutes, turning the leaves halfway through.
- Tip into a colander and leave to cool, then squeeze out every bit of moisture either with your fists or by putting the spinach – in batches – between 2 dinner plates and pressing them together. Chop the spinach finely.
- Melt the 30g of butter and gently sauté the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the spinach and stir it round; more moisture should evaporate in the heat of the pan.
- Scrape the spinach into a bowl and allow to cool, then mix in the ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, nutmeg, flour and seasoning. Taste a bit of the raw mixture for seasoning.
- Sprinkle a dusting of flour on to a large baking tray. Using wet hands (these work better than floured hands), roll the mixture into nuggets, a bit bigger than a marble but smaller than a walnut, then roll each gently in the flour to coat lightly.
- Put on a plate, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day, to firm them up (the chilling here is vital).
- Put a really big saucepan of lightly salted water on to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Melt the 50g butter in a large frying pan or sauté pan, then take it off the heat. Cook the gnudi in batches by dropping them into the water.
- After a couple of minutes they should have bobbed to the surface, so lift them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the butter.
- Shake around a little and cover the pan. When all the gnudi are cooked, gently heat them through in the butter.
- Serve in warmed dishes, sprinkling with a little more Parmesan and grinding on some black pepper.
A stylish seasonal menu with a Continental twist, by acclaimed cookery writer Diana Henry
DIANA HENRY HAS TWICE BEEN NAMED COOKERY WRITER OF THE YEAR BY THE GUILD OF FOOD WRITERS