Now that I had a lovely bowl full of fresh ricotta in my fridge, I needed to decide what to do with it other than go at it with a spoon and a twinkle in my eye. I thought about layering it with some fruit and crumbled amaretti cookies for a rustic Italian trifle, or possibly pureeing it with some blanched spinach as a dip or spread. I finally settled on the only thing that made sense: add more cheese to it. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?! I have always said too much of a good thing is a great thing and anything worth doing is worth overdoing, so the next natural step was to add some freshly grated parmesan cheese and see where the spirit moved me.
It moved me right to a recipe for ricotta gnudi from the lovely cookbook Earth to Table. This book focuses on recipes and techniques that take advantage of the slow food movement and seasonal, local ingredients. They have a recipe for ricotta gnudi from The Spotted Pig restaurant in NYC that I have yet to dine in, but have heard its praises sung for years. Supposedly their gnudi can make angels sing and grown men (and women) cry, so I knew this was the recipe for me.
Gnudi are cheesy little vittles that are similar to gnocchi but with cheese instead potato. The folks at The Spotted Pig use a sheep’s milk ricotta, and since mine was made with cow’s milk I added some grated manchego I had lying around to add that extra dose of funk (in a good way). One element that makes this recipe extra special is that the gnudi are stored in semolina flour overnight, so when you cook them up the next day they have a light layer of pasta enveloping the cheesy goodness inside. After you decide to make something so delightfully decadent and insanely rich, there’s no turning back. I threw caution to the wind and topped my darling little dumplings with browned butter and fried oregano and thyme.
I started weeping before the first bite touched my lips, and never looked back.
xo, Holly (The Apiarist)
Recipe adapted from Earth to Table and The Spotted Pig
As I mentioned before, these little devils are not for the faint of heart, so plan on only needing 2-3 per person as a decadent first course. I added some fresh thyme to fool myself into thinking I was eating a vegetable.
3 to 4 cups semolina flour (for storing the gnudi)
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated manchego or any other firm sheep’s milk cheese
2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 cup all purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
fresh oregano, thyme or sage (optional)
Pour a 1/4 inch of semolina flour into a casserole dish or other large container, and set aside.
Combine ricotta, parmesan, manchego, eggs, nutmeg, and thyme leaves in a medium bowl and thoroughly combine. Add the AP flour and gently stir until just combined. You may need to add more flour at this point so you’ll be able to form the dough into balls. It will still be pretty moist, but shouldn’t be drippy or unwieldy.
Using floured hands, roll the mixture into balls about the size of a ping pong ball. You should end up with about 12-15 gnudi. Place them into the prepared dish, and pour the remaining semolina flour over the top. Cover and store in the fridge overnight.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a light simmer. While the water comes to a boil, prepare the browned butter sauce. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once the butter solids start to lightly brown and the butter is foamy, add the herbs of your choice. Cook while swirling the pan for 10-20 seconds until the butter is a nutty brown color (but not black!) and the leaves are slightly crisp. Set aside.
Remove gnudi from their flour prison and let them come to room temperature. Gently lower them into the water using a slotted spoon, and cook until they float to the surface, just 1-2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and serve with sauce of your choice. Weep freely.
Serves 4-6 as a first course.