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Thursday, September 29

Time To Visit a "Gnudi" Bar!!

I love Italian food.  Especially gnocchi...it's one of those foods that, even though it has a rather odd name, it's REALLY tasty.  However, while most people who do alot of cooking have heard of gnocchi (a small, light, airy dumpling made from potatoes), not many know how to make them.  I'm lousy at it...I end up over-kneading the dough, and end up with hard little lumps that aren't remotely edible.  So, for now...I'll leave that one to professional chefs to cook up.

Did you know, however, that gnocchi has a sister?  I didn't for the longest time, but it does...it's called gnudi (pronounced nu-dee).  Gnudi are a bit different from gnocchi...they are made most often from ricotta cheese.  You still end up with this light, airy dumpling, but the flavor is to DIE for!!  The best description I can give is they resemble a cheese ravioli...WITHOUT the outside casing!!  That's right...all stuffing, no pasta.  Just the flavors that make ravioli so distinctive.  So, today, I made a HUGE batch of gnudi (I'm talking enough to freeze the extras for at least 3 more dinners).  The biggest surprise?  I made ALL this in about an hour total!!  What more can a person ask for in planning ahead?

So, without further ado...today, we'll be making Ricotta & Spinach Gnudi.  You'll need a large bowl for mixing, a good size pot to cook them in, and a second pot for whatever sauce you wish to put over them.  That's pretty much it.  Are you folks ready to cook something new?  Let's go!!

RICOTTA & SPINACH GNUDI

Ingredients:
Kosher salt
1 10-ounce package of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and sqeezed dry
1 1/2 cups whole-milk ricotta cheese, drained well
1 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
2 large eggs, beaten
1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
2 cups prepared marinara sauce (I like a light tomato/basil, but whatever kind you prefer)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces 

Directions:
Bring a large, wide pot of lightly salted water to a simmer (barely bubbling...you'll overcook the gnudi if it's at a full boil).  I don't use salt in my water, so if you are on a low sodium diet, just eliminate it.

Make sure your spinach is as dry as possible (squeeze in several layers of paper towels), then put in a large mixing bowl and separate it with your fingers.  Add the drained ricotta (again, make sure most moisture is out of it), 3/4 cup of the grated parmesan cheese, the 6 tablespoons of flour, the eggs, about 3/4 teaspoon of salt, the black pepper, and nutmeg.  Mix with a fork until the dough only feels slightly sticky (you can add a little more flour, if needed).

Spread some flour on a plate.  Using floured hands, scoop out a small portion of the dough and roll it into a round little ball (sort of like a meatball would be...about 1" round).  You'll end up with about 35 of them, but that number will depend on the size, so if you have a few more/less, it's ok.  Set each aside in a single layer on paper towels as you work.  Once you have all the balls formed, roll them in the flour until lightly coated all over.

Start heating your sauce.  In a medium saucepan, place your sauce and the butter, and bring to a light boil...enough to heat through and melt the butter, stirring often.  Turn heat down to low, and keep warm.

Meanwhile, gently lower the dumplings, about 10 at one time, into the simmering water.  Cook until they rise to the surface and are firm, about 5-7 minutes (if you need to, use a spoon to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Just a light push should get them floating).  Using a slotted spoon, remove them, allow the excess water to run off, then put them into the sauce mixture.  Once they are all in, bring the sauce back up to a light bubble for about 3 minutes, making sure all the gnudi are coated well by stirring gently.

Serve 4-6 gnudi on plates with crusty bread (or garlic bread...they both work well with this) and a nice side salad.  Makes enough for 6 to eat comfortably.

That's all it takes, folks.  It's VERY simple to double this recipe for larger crowds or to freeze for future meals.  If you are planning on freezing them, do NOT go past the point of rolling them in the flour.  Once that's done, take the prepared gnudi and place in a single layer in a flour-dusted freezer baggie (a gallon size will hold an entire batch easily).  When you want a quick meal, pull them out, drop them in simmering water, and cook for about 10 minutes (this will thaw them as well as cook them), then continue with the above directions.  You'll have dinner on the table in less than 20 minutes TOTAL - GREAT for a weekday dinner with the family!!

A simple, flavor-filled, real Italian dinner...what more can anyone ask for?  ENJOY!!

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