Gnudi (because seriously, how funny is that to say?!?)

Gnudi (because seriously, how funny is that to say?!?)

I turned 41 on Sunday.  Which isn't a big deal, I'm not afraid of aging or any of that, nor am I a huge birthday celebrator.  But I think the occassion warrants a little spoiling, usually in the form of a gluttonous meal.  And since I normally eat pretty gluttonous-y anyhow, that means usually heading toward the high carb end of the food spectrum. Or, in this case, pasta. ;)  So, I broke out the pasta machine.  I really wanted to make cheese tortellini, but that has a higher pasta to filling ratio, and I didn't want to go super overboard.  (Famous last words!)  So I opted instead to make raviolis.  I stuck with the cheese idea, but since there is more filling in a ravioli, I decided to augment the cheese with spinach.  For the cheese, I made a batch of fresh ricotta from whole milk and cream, curdled it with lemon juice, then strained it. Then I sauteed red onion, added garlic and fresh spinach, and tossed it until the spinach was wilted.  After removing it from the heat, I strained it in a wire strainer, pressing down to extract as much of the liquid as possible.  This helps keep the finished ravioli filling from being too wet and bursting out of the raviolis.  After the spinach was cooled, I mixed it with the ricotta cheese, added parmesan cheese, one egg, and seasoned it with salt and pepper.  I set the filling aside while I rolled the dough.  I divided the dough into 3 sections, and pushed each one through the roller, starting with the widest setting and graduating to the second to the last setting.  (In hindsight, while the last setting makes for a very thin and hard to handle dough, it does make for a more tender pasta, and I will use that in the future.)  Once I had to sheets rolled, I laid them on the cutting board, added the filling in tablespoon sized heaps, and covered it with the second sheet. Then I used my handy ravioli cutter wheel, which seals and cuts at the same time, and gives the raviolis their traditional ruffly edge appearance.  I transferred the finished raviolis to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and repeated the process until I had enough to cover the sheet (or until I was tired of making ravioli and ready to eat!).  Then I just had to boil water, and start the sauce.  For the sauce, I sauteed garlic and shallot in butter, then added white wine and reduced it by about half, then added heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. I let it reduce a bit until it was thick and sauce-like.  While that was reducing, I put some of the ravioli in to cook, and put the rest, on the baking sheet, in the freezer for another time.   For plating, I just put some of the drained ravioli in the bowl, and topped it with sauce, fresh parsley, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. All in all, the whole process took maybe three hours, including making the cheese. And making pop tarts at the same time, but that's another post. ;)

Fresh pasta is so easy to make, and SO worth the effort. Plus you can control what you fill it with, and how much, which is a huge plus as far as I am concerned!  The downfall is that it is so delicious that some of us may eat more than they should, or enough for roughly two people. :sigh: (I did make up for it by hitting the gym the next day, on my birthday, and did a super heavy workout, and managed to hit 185lbs on the deadlift for 3 reps, the most I have lifted since I injured my back several years ago, YAY!).

For my birthday dinner, I hadn't actually planned anything, since I'd been so focused on making the ravioli the night before. I had a ton of filling leftover, and could have made more ravioli to freeze for later, but I wanted to try something different with it.  I had seen someone on Food Network make gnudi, which is essentially ravioli filling without the pasta outside.  Since I had recently made ricotta gnocchi (heaven!!), I was intrigued with the idea of gnudi.  Apparently, gnudi is between a ravioli filling (no flour to bind it, leaving it soft) and a gnocchi (enough flour and egg to hold it together and give it some substance).  It is the filling, bound with a whole egg, a second yolk, and just enough flour to get it to hold it's shape while it is gently simmered; the end result is a soft, fluffy cloud that carries the flavors without the weight. Or, the exact opposite of store bought gnocchi. ;)   That sounded like a perfect luxurious dinner suitable for a birthday!  

For the sauce, I made a basic pomodoro sauce, with garlic, olive oil, canned whole tomatoes, and a generous pinch of sugar. While it simmered and reduced a bit, I pulled out the leftover filling and brought it to closer to room temperature so I could work with it.  I added a bit more parmesan cheese and salt to up the flavor profile a bit, added another yolk (I'd already put a whole egg in the night before when it was ravioli filling), and add just enough flour that I could shape it into small round balls.  Because it was so soft, I used a cookie scooper to form the balls.  Which had the added benefit of making sure all the balls were the same size.  Seriously, if you don't own one (or several in different sizes!) of these things, you should definitely look into it! They are awesome.  I linelined a baking sheet with parchment paper, dusted it with flour, and placed the shaped balls on it.  Then, when they were all formed, I dropped some of them into simmering water.  Only having had learned my lesson after my ravioli over-indulgence, I only made enough for one meal for ONE person. Not two. ;)  (The rest went into the freezer, on the sheet.  After they were frozen, I transferred them into a large ziploc bag, so I can make them as a fast dinner one night when I don't feel like actually cooking.) (No, that never happens, but I will make them one night when I spend the evening making something else that is very involved. ;) ) The instructions called for simmering the gnudis for 5-6 minutes, but I left mine in for closer to 8, turning them with a spider every few minutes to make sure they cooked evenly.  Once they were done, I fished them out with the spider, and let them drain while I lined the bottom of a pasta bowl with pomodoro sauce; then I carefully set the gnudi on top of the sauce, so they would sit on top and not be obliterated with a heavy tomato blanket. Because seriously, how pretty IS this dish?!   To finish, I topped it with more freshly grated parmesan cheese.  

This has to be THE best way to use up leftover ravioli filling! They really are like light fluffy clouds, and the gentle acidic bite of the tomato sauce was the perfect background to the more mellow flavor of the ricotta. I didn't miss the pasta at all, which sort of surprised me.  I'm really glad I tried this recipe, what a fun change.   

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 shallot, diced
1 bunch spinach, washed and stems removed
16 ounces ricotta (about 2 cups)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup all-purpose flour 
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
In a large saute pan, heat olive oil.  Add shallot and garlic, and cook one or two minutes, stirring, until softened.  Add spinach, and turn, until it is all cooked down and wilted.  Remove from pan and strain, pressing with rubber spatula, to remove extra liquid.  When cool, move to a cutting board and finely chop the spinach mixture.   
In a bowl, mix spinach mixture, ricotta, egg, egg yolk, pepper, Parmesan, salt, and nutmeg in a large bowl until well combined. Add up to 1/2 cup flour; stirring just until combined and mixture forms a ball (mixture will be soft and moist with some bits of ricotta remaining; add more flour by the tablespoonful if it feels too wet).
Dust a rimmed baking sheet generously with flour. Using a scoop or 2 spoons, shape heaping tablespoonfuls of dough into 1" balls, and place them on baking sheet and dust with more flour.
Cook gnudi in a large pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until cooked through and tender, 5-8 minutes. (Gnudi will quickly float to surface; continue cooking and turning the gnudi over or gnudi will be gummy in the center).
Using a slotted spoon, strain gnudi.  Place sauce in pasta bowls, and top with gnudi. finish with fresh cracked black pepper and freshly grated parmesan.

Pomodoro Sauce

1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Kosher salt
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute, stirring often, until slightly softened.  Add tomatoes and juice, and sugar.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently until tomatoes begin to break down.   Smash the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, or blitz with an immersion blender, or process in a food processor, as desired.  Return to heat if needed, and simmer until sauce is slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 


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