Gnudi with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

This recipe from Epicurious has been sitting here in my file waiting so patiently for me to take notice.  Every now and then I could hear its tiny whisper….”you want me; you know you do,” and I really did.  

Oh, why did it take me so long?   A little lighter than a gnocchi, gnudi are little fluffy down pillows of ricotta cheese, lightly flavored with pecorino romano cheese.  The Epicurious recipe paired them with a mushroom sauce which I’m sure was great, but I had in mind a very fresh, light tomato sauce with basil, and that was a great call.  The gnudi are wonderfully delicate, and I just couldn’t bring myself to burden them under a heavy sauce.

Basically, gnudi are just ravioli stuffing (ricotta cheese, egg, pecorino romano cheese and a little flour added to hold them together); no pasta. 

They’re formed into little balls or log-shapes and then boiled for about 5-8 minutes.  They’re a cinch to put together and very fun to eat.  The recipe makes enough for 3 or 4 people, but we put a pretty good dent in them just the two of us.  That’s especially easy to do if the sauce is light and fresh.

I made the ricotta cheese for this, but of course, a good store bought fresh ricotta would be great too.  I’m just so enamored of the flavor and texture of homemade ricotta cheese, which is very light and creamy.  I was pretty sure it would do good things for the gnudi, and I was right.  Lovely stuff.

The sauce was just as simple as could be.  I smashed up a couple of garlic cloves and let them simmer in ¼ cup of olive oil while I put together the gnudi dough.  I then removed the garlic from the oil, peeled and seeded 4 tomatoes and chopped them into the olive oil along with a little salt, pepper and chopped fresh basil.  This simmered happily while I finished putting the gnudi together.

When all was said and done, I topped those little ricotta puffs with some of the fresh tomato sauce, a little grated pecorino romano and a nice sprinkling of chopped fresh basil.   The verdict?  It was unanimous…gnudi are awesomely delicious and will definitely be back in the Circle B Kitchen very soon.  And often.

Gnudi with Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

Printable Recipe
Adapted from Epicurious

1 pound fresh ricotta cheese*
1 large egg
1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese (about 1 ounce) plus additional for serving
1/2 teaspoon salt
Large pinch of ground white pepper
3/4 cup all purpose flour plus additional for coating

Line a colander with cheesecloth or several layers of paper towels. Spoon ricotta cheese into the colander. Let drain at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.

Beat egg, 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and white pepper in large bowl to blend. Mix in ricotta. Sprinkle 3/4 cup flour over and stir gently to blend. Cover and chill dough 1 hour. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Place some flour in bowl. For each gnudi, gently roll 1 heaping teaspoonful of dough into ball. Add to flour; toss to coat lightly, shaping into short log. Place on baking sheet. Do ahead Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover; chill.

Cook gnudi in large pot of boiling salted water until very tender, about 6-8 minutes.

Fresh Tomato-Basil Sauce

4 large ripe tomatoes
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan. Smash the garlic cloves with the side of a large knife and add to the oil.  Heat the garlic in the olive oil over a low flame while you prepare the tomatoes.

Bring a saucepan of water to a boil.  Cut an "X" in the bottom of each tomato.  Gently submerge the tomatoes into the boiling water for about one to 2 minutes.  Remove from the boiling water and peel off the skin.  Cut each tomato in half around the equator and use your fingers to remove the seeds.  Dice the tomatoes and set aside.

Remove the garlic from the oil and add the chopped tomatoes and a little salt and pepper.  Let simmer while you prepare the gnudi dough.  Add the chopped basil and taste for salt and pepper.