Meditations

The Delights of Gnudi and Homemade Ricotta


gnudi

Way back when the Irish Heather first moved to their new digs, they had a tomato basil gnudi on the menu – a dish that was invented at the Spotted Pig gastropub in New York City and appropriated by various eating establishments around the world. Gnudi has been around for a while, but it is still under the radar enough that it doesn’t have a wikipedia entry. Basically, it is a softer, more pillowy version of gnocchi – made with fresh ricotta cheese instead of potatoes.

Since I can’t get it at the Heather anymore and it’s been a while since I’ve been to the Spotted Pig, I’ve been making my own – including the ricotta. It’s ambitious, but the end result is well worth it.

Step 1 – Ricotta

To make the ricotta, I use this recipe, adapted from 101 cookbooks:

2L whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
Optional: garlic, rosemary, etc.

Make sure all your equipment; stock pot, colander, etc. are as clean as possible.

Pour milk and salt into a large pot and heat slowly, stirring occasionally. When the milk is hot, reduce heat to simmering. Curds will start to form and float on the surface. Keep stirring occasionally, down to the bottom, to retrieve any that have sunk.

Take a piece of cheesecloth and fold it over a couple of times (4 or 5) to make a thick filter. Line the colander with it.

When the milk reaches about 175 degrees, the curds and whey will start to separate. Remove the pot from the heat and scoop out the curds onto the cheesecloth.

If you’re adding in a flavour element, do it now, then tie up the ends of the cheesecloth and hang it somewhere (with a pot underneath) for an hour or so.

Discard the liquid and refrigerate in an air-tight container.

Ricotta cheese doesn’t last very long, only about 2 days, so don’t make it very far in advance of the gnudi.

mushrooms

Step 2 – Gnudi

I’ve made several variations of sauce for the gnudi. It doesn’t hold up overly well to thick, meaty sauces, but anything with a bit of oil or (i.e: pesto is perfect) or light tomato sauce works well. One of my favorites for fall is a version with wild mushrooms and truffle oil, adapted from Epicurious. The crispy sage garnish is so lovely.

Gnudi:
1 lb fresh ricotta cheese (you’ll have enough from the above recipe)
1 large egg
1/3 cup Pecorino Romano or Gran Padano cheese, grated finely
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pinch of ground white pepper
3/4 cup all purpose flour, plus a bit extra

Sauce:
5 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
6 prosciutto slices
12 fresh sage leaves, whole
2 lbs fresh wild mushrooms – crimini, oyster, shiitake, etc. – sliced. The mixed bag from the mushroom guy at the farmers’ market is perfect.
2 large shallots, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp truffle oil
1/4 cup butter, cubed
ground black pepper

Beat the egg, cheese, salt, and pepper in large bowl to blend, then add the ricotta. Sprinkle 3/4 cup flour over the mix and and stir gently to form a dough. Cover with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge for an hour or so.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle some flour in another bowl, enough for dusting. Form the gnudi by rolling teaspoon of dough into a ball with your hands and then rolling in the flour. Shake off the excess flour and place it on the baking sheet, pressing it into a longer, flatter shape. Repeat.

To make the sauce, warm some olive oil in a skillet and fry the prosciutto slices until they’re crispy. Lay on paper towels to absorb the oil and then add the fresh sage leaves to the prosciutto oil and cook until they are also crisp. Add them to the paper towel.

Add some more oil to the pan if needed, along with the mushrooms and shallots. Cook the mixture until the mushrooms brown and liquids evaporate, then remove from heat and transfer the mixture to bowl.

You can start cooking the gnudi now, in a large pot of salted water. It should take about 6-8 minutes, depending on the size. If it’s done before the next step, remove it from the heat and let it sit.

Add the chicken broth to the sauce pan (without removing any of the previous oil) and boil until slightly reduced. Simmer on low, stirring in the truffle oil and the mushroom mixture and adding salt and pepper to taste.

Melt in the butter and then transfer the gnudi to the sauce with a strainer. Stir gently until the gnudi is coated with sauce. Remove from heat.

Garnish the dish with the prosciutto, sage leaves, grated cheese and fresh ground pepper and serve. It goes perfectly with La Frenz‘s Riesling, but any off-dry white should do.

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