Those gnudi bastards gave me a bit of a headache to say the least. I had them for the first time at The Spotted Pig in New York City a few years ago and it was a revelation. Imagine a gnocchi with the light and pillowy texture of ricotta. There’s no flour, no potato, no egg… nothing! It’s just you… and a dreamy little cloud.
It’s chef April bloomfield who started the craze and serves hers very simply in a sage brown-butter sauce, i’m sure many of you had the chance to sample this deliciousness. I’ve been trying to recreate the same texture ever since and failed several times. It reinforced my belief that the fewer ingredients there are in a recipe, the bigger the chance to screw it up. Since there aren’t any starchy/binding ingredients in the ricotta mixture, then there must be a little bit of magic involved in creating a dumpling that you can boil and sautee in butter. No, I’m not talking about molecular gastronomy [yawns] … It’s semolina flour magic my friends. Little nuggets of ricotta are piped directly onto a layer of semolina and then covered with more semolina. Someone should compose a song ‘in homage’ and name it semolina-semolina. You put your little project in the fridge and forget it for a few day. So far so good, right?
Wrong! Now the tricky part, you’re gonna have to make a pact with the devil.. You’re gonna have to trust your own…ju..jud.. judgement! Arghhhhhh…
Since ricotta come with different degrees of moisture, the process of turning blobs of ricotta into ravioli is not an exact science. It could take a day, or two, or three. What happens is the semolina absorbs the moisture of the ricotta and by doing so it creates a thin skin around it, once enough moisture has been absorbed and the ‘skin’ is strong enough you have a ricotta ‘ravioli’ that you can boil and gently sautee in butter, if not dry enough it will collapse into a pitiful puddle of cheese at the contact of boiling water or hot butter… believe me, I went there. Judgement!! you have to use your judgement my friends to decide when your lumps are ready to be cooked! Arrghhhhhhh… just the thought of it is too much to handle. (Ok a hint, they will feel firm and compact). Judgement!…Argghhhhhh…
Anyway, enough teasing. This is a fantastic recipe if you can pull it off. It’s not too hard really but use only FRESH ricotta, even better, use sheep’s milk ricotta if you can find it. The supermarket ricotta will take decades to dry since they inject it with all kinds of weird preservatives. Supermarket ricotta = not your friend.
To finish the dish I sauteed some pancetta and artichokes hearts and fried some sage leaves and they ‘partnered’ really well with the soft ricotta gnudi. I also grated a little bit of aged Comte over the top before serving to add some funk and a turn or two of freshly ground pepper. Geez, now you know all my secrets. Enjoy!
Ricotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Artichoke & Fried Sage
- (inspired by the Spotted Pig)
- (serves 4)
- 1 lb fresh ricotta
- ¼ cup grated parmegiano-reggiano
- ½ lemon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 3 cups semolina flour
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 4 slices pancetta, sliced finely
- 2 artichoke hearts, cleaned, trimmed and cooked
- 14 sage leaves, some fried, some chopped
- ½ cup canola oil, for frying
- Aged Comte, for grating
- Mix the ricotta, the parmigiano and the squeezed lemon juice in a medium-bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. In a shallow platter, spread out a third of the semolina. Put the ricotta mixture in a pastry bag fitted with a #9 or #10 tip and pipe blobs (the equivalent of 1 tablespoon) onto the semolina. Cover with the remaining semolina (it should look like the Saharian desert at this point) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 24 hours. Use your judgement!!
- When ready to proceed, pick up the gnudi from the semolina brushing off the excess, and roll them in the palm of your hands one by one to round them up (it also helps to ‘set’ the skin). Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, crisp-up the pancetta strips in a pan and drain on paper towels. Fry the sage leaves in the canola oil and drain on paper towel. Slice the artichoke hearts and reserve. Gently drop the gnudi in the water and cook until they start coming back to the surface, about 3 minutes. In a large pan, melt the butter and add the artichokes to sautee quickly, emulsify with a few tablespoons of the cooking water, add the chopped sage and carefully transfer the drained gnudi to the pan. They should hold their shape nicely. Season with salt and pepper. Toss gently. Divide the gnudi and artichokes among 4 bowls. Sprinkle with the pancetta and fried sage leaves, grate some Comte over each portion and serve immediately.