As the temperatures being to drop, comfort food starts appearing on the table more often. Not only soups, stews, casseroles and pasta, but also dishes such as this Gnudi smothered in tomato sauce. Sounds sexy doesn’t it, in all its rustic yet elegant glory.
The last of the local tomatoes will soon be gone and while they are in abundance, they ought to shine, as they do in this rich and luscious homemade tomato sauce that adorned the gnudi. Fresh hot peppers and herbs from my garden completed the experience.
Tuscan in origin, gnudi are pillowy little pasta-like dumplings, much like a gnocchi without the potatoes, so they are lighter and easier to prepare – rather like ravioli, without the pasta component. Once you have tried them, you will find yourself craving them time and time again.
The gnudi is fairly mild on its own, making it a perfect vehicle for the slightly spicy and herb laden sauce.
Served with a side leafy green salad dressed with an oil and balsamic dressing along with homemade [highlight]mini Gruyère scones[/highlight], it turned out to be an intimate meal for three, characterized by rustic charm with distinct elegance that really ought to be enjoyed slowly, in a candlelit setting. Sometimes, smaller bites make for the most satisfying dinners.
Ricotta Gnudi with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce
For the Tomato Sauce:
- 3 to 4 sun-dried tomatoes
- 1 oz (28 g) mixed dried mushrooms
- 8 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
- pinch of cayenne
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar, jaggery or brown sugar
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, trimmed and chopped (3/4 teaspoon dried)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, trimmed (3/4 teaspoon dried)
- 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped (1/2 teaspoon dried)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
For the Gnudi:
- 9 oz (250 g) ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- zest from 1 lemon
- generous 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/3 cup spelt or unbleached white flour + more for shaping the mixture
- fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
To make the tomato sauce, begin by soaking the sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and chop.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until it begins to brown — about 2 minutes. Add the chilies to the pan and stir for another minute.
Now add the fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, paprika, dried red chili flakes, cayenne, sugar and a portion of the salt. If using dried herbs, add them now. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened — about 20 to 30 minutes. If using fresh herbs, add them during the last 10 minutes of cooking time to maximize flavor. Add more salt and adjust seasonings. This sauce can easily be reheated before serving.
To make the gnudi, combine the ricotta, egg, black pepper, lemon zest, Parmesan and salt in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
Dust a surface liberally with flour (this could be a baking sheet, piece of parchment paper or large cutting board). Using 2 large soup spoons, shape the dough into 1 1/2 to 2 inch long football shapes and transfer to the floured surface. You ought to have 14 to 16 gnudi. Dust with more flour and gently shape them further and roll them in flour. You want them soft but not too sticky.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Carefully add the gnudi and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon. transfer to a plate and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.
If desired, for an extra buttery flavor, fry the cooled gnudi in butter. Heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, fry the gnudi in 2 batches, a few minutes for each, turning often until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.
To serve, spread a few tablespoons of warm tomato sauce onto the plate, top with a serving of gnudi, and ladle more sauce on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and some fresh chopped basil.
Makes 2 to 3 servings
If you want something with some Indian flair:
[highlight]Lentil Dumplings Simmered in a Sweet Tamarind Sauce[/highlight]