This week we are in Tuscany to visit my in-laws. They live in Scarperia, a beautiful medieval village in the Mugello Valley, about 30 km from Florence. My mother in law Gabriella is a wonderful cook and, every time I visit her, she teaches me a new recipe. This time we made ‘GNUDI’ (naked, in Tuscan dialect). They are typical Tuscan dumplings, also known as ‘malfatti’ or ‘ricotta gnocchi’, although quite different from gnocchi as you may know it. Gnocchi have a starchy base, such as potato or flour, while gnudi are little more than featherlight clouds of fluffy fresh ricotta and spinach, often dressed with nothing fancier than melted butter. In fact the Florentine term gnudi, or naked, refers to their resemblance to ravioli minus the pasta. Happily, they’re considerably easier to make than either ravioli or gnocchi, so you don’t need to be an expert chef to make them and enjoy a light delicious Tuscan dinner!
- 500 g frozen spinach
- 350 g ricotta
- 100 g parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbs of strong white flour + some extra to dust
- salt and pepper
- 70 g butter
- sage leaves
Cook spinach according to package directions. Place the spinach in a colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Transfer to a food processor to finely chop.
Add the ricotta, eggs, parmesan, a pinch of nutmeg, 3 tbsp of flour and a pinch of salt and pepper and pulse two or three times until the mixture just comes together and forms a sticky dough. Line a tray with baking paper and dust with a little flour. Tip some flour into a shallow dish and, with lightly floured hands and using a tbsp as a rough guide, shape portions of the dough into round gnudi (dumplings). Gently toss in the flour to completely coat, then roll into balls and arrange on the prepared tray in a single layer.
Place the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat until it starts to foam. Continue to cook until the butter browns slightly, then add the sage and remove from the heat. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a gentle boil. Add the gnudi (not more than 12 at a time) and poach for 2–3 minutes until they rise to the surface.
Remove the gnudi with a slotted spoon and arrange five or six on each serving plate. Drizzle over the butter, add a few sage leaves and serve with a sprinkle of extra parmesan.
There are many Tuscan wines, which are a good match for this typical regional dish. I chose two DOC wines, that, despite their differences, are both excellent wines and not very expensive. The first one is Nobile di Montepulciano: it is a red wine, light and fragrant, with a soft and warm taste, spicy with herbaceous notes. It can enhance the sage without covering the smell of the herb. The second one is Vernaccia di San Gimignano: it is a white wine with a fine and intense aroma, with good persistence, superb when served very cold. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste that perfectly balances the freshness of the ricotta and the flavour of the sage. I love them both, so this time my choice is very much based on my personal taste!