Pillow-light ricotta-based dumplings with sweet, nutty Italian salume
Gnudi are pillow-light, ricotta-based dumplings that are poached and traditionally served with browned butter and sage.
And that’s the case here, though I’ve added prosciutto to both the mix and finished plate, which I think adds a nutty and sweet touch. The salt and umami of the meat makes it an alternative to a dusting of parmesan, and to my mind the taste, textural and indeed temperature contrast between the meat and gnudi is really pleasing. Certainly it’s an excellent way to make the most of a few slices of prosciutto di Parma or San Danielle.
Gnudi are best made at least 3-4 hours in advance of eating, not least as time in the fridge allows something of a skin to develop. I also think they’re better as a starter or light lunch, rather than scaled up and depended on as a main course.
Read my article about Italian salumi here.
70g salted butter
200g baby spinach leaves, washed
10 slices of prosciutto (San Danielle or Parma)
250g ricotta, drained
2 large egg yolks
50g tipo ‘00’ flour
25g finely grated parmesan
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
¼ nutmeg, finely grated
50g (approx) fine semolina flour, for dusting
20 sage leaves
Sea salt and black pepper
Melt just a small amount of the butter in a large frying or sauté pan set over a low-medium heat. Add the spinach leaves and wilt gently for 3-5 mins, until completely cooked down. Drain through a sieve, pushing the spinach with the back of a spatula or similar to remove as much of the moisture as you can, then run a knife vigorously though it until the spinach might be considered very finely chopped. Spread over a small plate and leave to cool. Chop 2 slices of prosciutto similarly finely and set to one side.
Put the spinach, ricotta, chopped prosciutto, egg yolks, 00 flour, parmesan and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and use a spatula to thoroughly mix and combine the ingredients. Season with just a little salt, a good few turns of a pepper mill and the nutmeg. Stir again—perhaps with a fork if the spinach or prosciutto look like they’re clumping.
Decant 4-5 tbsp semolina into a small baking tray or other flat-bottomed container that will fit in your fridge. Wet your hands, then form an amount of ricotta mix into a ball a little smaller than a golf ball. Roll onto and around the semolina, then repeat until all the ricotta mix has been used—you should have 20 gnudi. Leave in the fridge uncovered for at least 3-4 hours. Overnight is fine.
When ready to eat, put a large pan of heavily salted water on to boil. In a separate frying pan, melt the rest of the butter and add the sage leaves. Remove the leaves when crisp and set aside. Turn the heat off once the butter is browned and smelling nutty. Once the water is at a rolling boil, drop the gnudi in and cook for 3 mins—give them a gentle nudge from time to time to ensure they do not stick to the pan or each other.
Remove the cooked gnudi from the saucepan with a slotted spoon, putting them into a sieve or colander held over the pan as you do so. Turn the heat under the butter back on to low and gently tip the drained gnudi into the pan. Roll them around the browned butter then serve up, laying 4 bowls with 2 pieces of prosciutto each, dividing the gnudi and sage leaves between the bowls and spooning any remaining flavoursome butter from the pan over the gnudi.
Recipe: Ed Smith