Gnudi (pronounced nyew-dee) is basically a naked or nude ravioli. Which is to say, ravioli without the pasta, which is to say: a bunch of ricotta cheese bound together with a bit of egg and flour. And gnudi are delicious, which you would know if you ever ate them at the dearly departed Dona in New York, the continually slammed Spotted Pig (also in New York), cooked them out of the excellent recipe in Bon Appetit (full disclosure: I’m an editor there), or ate them many years before people started calling them gnudi at Lupa, Mario Batali’s restaurant in the West Village (also in New York) where they called them ricotta gnocchi way back when (even though they didn’t contain any potato, a prerequisite for the applicatioin of that term in most cases; and if you’re a restaurateur anywhere but New York, you’d better start serving gnudi because it will make you tons of profit in the long run).
I’ve recently been experimenting with variations on the Spotted Pig’s gnudi, which I’ve read is made with sheeps milk ricotta, which I have no access to. The version at the Spotted Pig is light, pillowy, unctuous, somehow weightless seeming despite being loaded with fat and sauced with about a quarter cup of sage-y brown butter. This stuff is by no means healthy, but if you refrain from feeding your kids big macs and the like, once in a while a dish like this is just fine. My kids adore this dish. But then again, much like all children, they are cheese freaks. (fyi: the photo is the basic gnudi recipe, plus a guanciale, arugula, and tomato sauce; that’s the next step up after you’ve mastered this recipe)
15 ounces ricotta, drained
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
a few gratings nutmeg
1/4 cup grated parmesan or pecorino
half a stick of butter
12 or so sage leaves
In a large bowl mix the ricotta, egg, flour, salt and pepper, and nutmeg and mix until just combined. Using a tablespoon, scoop up a good measure of the mixture and roll into a sphere, much like making a little ricotta snowball. Place on a floured surface. Repeat until you have a whole mess of little gnudi, made in as uniform a size and shape as possible. At this point you should refrigerate the gnudi for at least a half hour before cooking in gently boiling salted water until they float to the surface. You could also freeze them for future use.
While the gnudi are boiling, melt the butter in a sauce pan until it has foamed and the foam has subsided and the butter starts to turn a honeyed sort of brown. Add sage leaves and sautee until super fragrant and a bit crisp.Once gnudi is cooked, divide among bowls and then top with browned sage butter and a serious grating of parmesan. Serve immediately to deafening applause from children of all ages.