Ricotta Gnudi with Spinach & Dukka
You will absolutely love these big, fluffy pillows of creamy ricotta. Gnudi are wildly impressive and easy at the same time. The sprinkling of dukka, an Egyptian seed-and-nut mix, really makes the dish sparkle.
Let’s cut to the chase right now. You are probably asking what the heck a gnudi is, cause it doesn’t sound like something you’d eat. But gnudi (pronounced noo-dee) is an Italian, gnocchi-like dumpling that is truly one of the most amazing things you’ll ever eat. “Gnudi” comes from the Italian term “nudi,” which—just like it sounds—means naked. These little fellas are essentially nude raviolis, existing without their pasta shell! Some people equate them to gnocchi, but because they’re made with ricotta and not potato, they’re lighter and softer and not quite as chewy as gnocchi.
I created this gnudi recipe for my cookbooks, Just Cook It!, but I also have another version that I created for Food & Wine, which is just as delightful sprinkled with lots of fresh herbs.
First, the Gnudi Short-Cut Revealed
Italian nonnas have probably been making gnudi for eons, but I’m guessing they didn’t make it with a food processor or an ice cream scoop. But you know me—I’m all about finding a short-cut! The old-school method is to very gently shape the gnudi into perfect little ovals on a floured work surface. But my time-saving technique is to scoop balls of dough right from the food processor and drop them directly into a pot of simmering water.
A Note on Ricotta for Gnudi
Ricotta cheese is the key ingredient here, so you might be tempted to splurge and buy it fresh from the cheese market. Now, there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but in this case, I recommend using the kind you buy at the supermarket. It’s not nearly as wet, so it helps the dumplings hold together nicely. But if you prefer using fresh ricotta, go for it, just be sure to drain it first in a couple of layers of cheesecloth to extract the excess liquid.
Sticking to Tradition (Well, Kind of)
After your gnudi have boiled, they get pan-fried in a mix of butter and olive oil, which is a little riff on the Italian tradition of cooking them in brown butter. The next part is definitely my own spin: I finish the gundi with some garlic and spinach, then lemon juice, which is the star on the top of the tree, as far I am concerned!
Here it is: the pièce de résistance! Dukka, which gets its name from the Arabic for “to pound,” is made of spices, seeds, and nuts ground into a distinctive, aromatic condiment. It is traditionally served with bread and olive oil. I became infatuated with it when a friend brought back a little container from Egypt. I’d had dukka before, but that batch was so flavorful that I couldn’t stop thinking about new ways to use it. Sure, I sprinkled it all over olive oil–soaked bread, but then I got the genius idea to shower it over pasta. The next natural place for it? Of course! My gnudi!
How I make it: I toast coriander seeds, cumin, sesame seeds and caraway in a big skillet until everything is crazy fragrant. That usually takes anywhere from 5 to 7 minutes, then I transfer it all to a plate to cool. Once cool, I pulse the seeds in a food processor until finely crushed. I add shelled pistachios (salted or not) and roasted almonds (also salted or not) and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. All that goes into a jar with a lid and I mix in 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, then season generously with salt and black pepper. My dukka holds in an airtight container for up to 1 month at room temp. The measurements for this are in a note in the recipe.
Ricotta Gnudi with Spinach & Dukka
- 2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 2 large eggs
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 10-ounce bunch leaf spinach, stemmed , (or 5 ounces baby spinach)
- Dukka, for sprinkling, (see Note)
- In a food processor, combine the ricotta, parmesan, eggs, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and puree until smooth. Scrape down the side of the bowl and puree again. Add the flour and pulse until the flour is just incorporated. Scrape the gnudi dough into a medium bowl.
- Fill a large pot with water and bring to a simmer over medium heat (it should be bubbling but not rapidly boiling) and then add a small handful of salt. Using a 1 1/2-tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop half the gnudi dough directly into the simmering water. Simmer the gnudi until they rise to the surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to simmer until the gnudi are cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more. They should be pillowy but just firm (sacrifice 1 gnudi by cutting it in half to check the doneness). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnudi to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining gnudi dough. Let stand at room temperature for 10 minutes.
- In a large nonstick skillet, melt the butter in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the gnudi and cook until browned on the bottom, 3 to 5 minutes. Give the pan a shake and cook until the gnudi are coated in the butter mixture, about 1 minute more. Using a slotted spoon, return the gnudi to the baking sheet.
- In the same skillet over medium heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 3 minutes. Add the gnudi and lemon juice and stir gently to mix.
- Season the gnudi and spinach with salt and pepper, then transfer to plates or a platter. Sprinkle with some dukka and serve.
vegetables, is a mixture of nuts, seeds, and spices that are dry toasted until very
fragrant and then pounded (or ground). You can buy it online or make your own. How I make it: In a large skillet over medium heat, toast 1/4 cup of coriander seeds with 2 tablespoons each of cumin and sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon of caraway, shaking the pan, until fragrant and the sesame seeds are golden, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool. Once cool, pulse the seeds in a food processor until finely crushed. Add 1/2 cup shelled pistachios (salted or not), 1/2 cup roasted almonds (also salted or not) and pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Transfer to a jar with a lid and stir in 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, then season generously with salt and black pepper. The dukka holds in an airtight container for up to 1 month at room temp. Do It Ahead: The cooked gnudi can be refrigerated in an airtight container overnight. Reheat them in simmering water for about 1 minute and then let stand for 10 minutes before browning them in the skillet. RICOTTA GNUDI WITH SPINACH & DUKKA is excerpted from JUST COOK IT! © 2018 by Justin Chapple. Photography © 2018 by David Malosh. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.
2 Comments on “Ricotta Gnudi with Spinach & Dukka”
I have not made this yet, so I don’t feel right giving it stars. I just wanted to comment on this:
Justin says: “Ricotta cheese is the key ingredient here, so you might be tempted to splurge and buy it fresh from the cheese market. Now, there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but in this case, I recommend using the kind you buy at the supermarket.”
Yep, I am a fanatic when it comes to ricotta cheese…drool…. even tho I have to drive about 15 miles to buy the Italian market kind that is scooped from a huge plastic container, even tho it has a short shelf life. To me, the flavor and that bumpy texture is heavenly, and I can definitely distinguish it from the supermarket kind, So – the extra step of draining it before using in the gnudi seems just fine. And they do sound wonderful. I am definitely going to enjoy your recipes.
I’m glad that I joined up with you.
I love love love the enthusiasm for high-quality ingredients! Thanks for being here!