Ricotta Gnudi with Pancetta, Artichokes & Fried Sage


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.
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  • Maggie

    These look incredible. Congrats on your success with these—tricky stuff!

  • Holly

    They look really good. Do you recommend making your on ricotta?

  • Colloquial Cook

    Sahara has never felt so welcoming. It’s true that the nights are cold. (how cold is your fridge, exactly? Will I need thermal underwear?)

  • Mike of Mike’s Table

    I’ve been dying to try my hand at these since I had them at the Spotted Pig as well…and have been afraid to do so. You did me right by the gnocchi, so now I will definitely be trying these. Great work!

  • doggybloggy

    these sound too tasty not to try but I am not sure of my judgement….

  • 5 Star Foodie

    Wow, these look so perfectly delicate! I will be trying to make them this weekend!

  • Clumbsy Cookie

    My dear, my judgement says to wait for you to make it for me instead of making my own. I have a very smart and lazy judgement! They do look amazing!

  • Big Boys Oven

    this is just so adorable . . . . should smell good and taste yummy.

  • Daniel

    I love this blog… you do such a great job of teaching your readers new things, and you do it with such enthusiam! Thanks so much for sharing.

    Casual Kitchen

  • White on Rice Couple

    This is totally a new one for us. Love your description of them. Definitely worth the failed attempts in order to create a little magic. Todd.

  • Rowena

    Good gawd gnudi! I just have to try this. There is no excuse being that sheep’s milk ricotta is a dang steal over here.

    I’m on it.

  • My Sweet & Saucy

    That looks divine!

  • Lazy baker

    Damned another good looking dish!
    In the part of France where my mom is from they call malfait,yours look well done!

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  • http://www.ztastylife.com/ amelia

    genius! I HAVE to make these…now…!!!

  • Zach

    Came out very well. Went with a vegetarian adaptation (just omitted the bacon). My gnudi didn’t hold together super well when I transferred them to the saute pan, but I probably had 90% recovery.

    I made them with cow’s milk ricotta after failing to find sheep’s milk to make sheep’s milk ricotta. Tasted great, but next time I’ll definitely hunt down sheep’s milk ricotta.

    Cheers. Great recipes as always.

  • michele

    fascinating technique. I have always made mine by pressing the heck out of the ricotta to get those dry, light curds. homemade ricotta is definately preferable flavor-wise, but i have successfully used store-bought. i can’t wait to try out your method.

  • Anna

    Help! I found fresh sheep’s milk ricotta. I put it in cheese cloth and let it drain from Monday afternoon till Tuesday evening. Tuesday evening I mixed it, made the mounds in the semolina, covered the mounds with semolina and then put them in the fridge until Wednesday evening. When I boiled them they did not keep their shape, the semolina got soggy. I ended up with really messy mush. Where did I go wrong?!

  • http://www.zencancook.com zenchef

    Ouch, sorry to hear that Anna. I think they would have to spend more time inside the semolina as it is the only thing that can rid them of all that moisture. Also, simmering water rather than boiling helps them retain their shape. When this recipe goes wrong (and it’s a tricky technique) it’s almost always because the gnocchi are too wet. Hope that helps a little.

  • Peter

    Thanks. I have been making traditional gnudi for years and when I ate them at Spotted pig 3 years ago is say to myself these are not gnudi, they are round puffy ravioli. Regardless I have been trying to recreate the dish myself and you my friend deconstructed the myth I have made them and they are as close as you can get!! Bravo..

  • http://twocoasttable.com Twocoasttable

    I am trying to make these now & I can’t wait.

  • Jensee

    OMG…Piping bag? Bollox! No need for one of those….a small scoop and your hands work perfectly fine. And the water shouldn’t be ” boiling “…..a high simmer is more like it. Too high of a boil will obliterate your GNUDI…..!

  • Serene

    Tried making gnudi today. What do we do with the leftover semolina after devouring those gnudis?

  • zenchef