Spinach and ricotta gnudi
Known as gnudi in Florence and malfatti in Siena, these spinach and ricotta dumplings are a light, festive dish
It was the beginning of summer 2010, I had the blog for slightly more than one year and I was stuck in a daily job where gratifications were meagre. I was still at home with my parents and my family was renting the house where I live now for the holidays. A nice American couple who was spending the week here in the countryside asked me if I could refer them to someone for a cooking class.
I’m always slow to recognize opportunities, they often pass by like high speed trains, but that day, that day I caught my train.
I offered myself as cooking class instructor, boasting an experience and a self-confidence I did not have. We agreed for a day and a menu and as soon as I got back home after work I knocked on their door, bringing a bag of ingredients and trying to hide my quivering voice. There was tiramisu on the menu, something I was pretty confident about, a family recipe which I could make with a hand tied behind my back.
The main course was instead the result of too much enthusiasm and not enough thinking. I opted for gnudi, known also as malfatti, delicate ricotta and spinach dumplings which I had probably made a couple of times in my whole life.
There’s a crucial moment when making gnudi.
You pop them into a pot of boiling water and wait faithfully for them to float to the top. A couple of minutes separates you from perfectly shaped gnudi or from a mushy mass of ricotta and spinach.
I was gazing at the pot of boiling water for any sign of failure of success: that wait had the taste of eternity. I was wondering why on earth I had chosen gnudi while I could have easily made tagliatelle when I saw the first, plump and round gnudo floating gently to the top. Soon after an army of gnudi crowded the surface of the pot. I had succeeded in preparing the first meal during a cooking class.
After dinner, I walked back home with my heart fluttering in my chest. It was the first time my work had been sincerely appreciated, I felt invincible, I had found my place in the world, my mission, the job I wanted to make.
RECIPE. SPINACH AND RICOTTA GNUDI
One recipe, two names: malfatti (badly made) in Siena, gnudi (naked) in Florence. Malfatti, because their main characteristic is to be irregular, homemade, and a bit lumpy. Gnudi because they are ultimately the filling for ravioli, without the external dress of homemade pasta.
Use well-drained ricotta and squeeze very well the cooked spinach: these are the only two secrets to making perfect soft, light gnudi that won’t melt in the boiling water.
The gnudi dough, made just with ricotta and spinach, is soft and slightly sticky, but don’t be tempted to add more flour to make it denser. The flour you’re going to use to coat the gnudi and roll them into is enough to ensure a perfect result.
This is an exclusive recipe for the subscribers. It is part of a serialized Tuscan cookbook that you will receive over the course of one year, a collection of tested classic Tuscan recipes to add to your cooking repertoire. Learn more about the I Love Toscana project here and find all the recipes here.
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