You know how a word you’ve just learned suddenly begins popping up everywhere? Well, gnudi have been doing virtually the same lately, showing up on menus in restaurants I’ve visited and in cookbooks I’ve been reading.
But just as that new vocabulary word was always out there, you just hadn’t noticed it, gnudi have been around for centuries. And I knew about them for years. I just hadn’t made them or even tasted them.
Gnudi are little ricotta dumplings, best thought of as ravioli filling without the pasta enveloping it. The Italian word “gnudi” means “nudes,” so it’s like nude ravioli. (They are sometimes called ravioli gnudi.) Or ravioli guts. They are similar to gnocchi but much lighter and much easier to make.
I got around to trying gnudi a couple of months ago.
With some super-fresh ricotta — essential for the best flavor — languishing in the fridge, I decided to take the plunge, following a recipe from “The Geometry of Pasta,” by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy. The method is simple: Mix ricotta, flour, egg, grated cheese and seasonings together. (“The Geometry of Pasta” calls for breadcrumbs to bind the dumplings, instead of flour.) Mold into small balls with your hands. Cook in boiling water.
I found gnudi date from at least the late 1200s, according to Oretta Zanini de Vita in “Encyclopedia of Pasta,” and predate stuffed pasta.
It’s easy to see why gnudi stuck around. They came out tender and delicious. And although forming the little guys was time-consuming (a small spring-loaded cookie scoop, one or two teaspoon measure, helps), the gnudi were so easy to make.
If you’ve shied away from making homemade ravioli, maybe this project is your warm-up.
Or just make gnudi instead and forget the pasta.