It's late summer and I have an excess of garden tomatoes so naturally I wanted to make a delicious pasta sauce. In an earlier post I made ricotta gnudi with zucchini flower sauce and because the gnudi were so delicious and easy to make, I decided to make them again. I have used a different shape this time to catch the delicious pomodoro sauce in the nooks of the pasta. I think I might prefer this version but only because I'm a sucker for a simple tomato sauce. If you don't have access to good quality tomatoes, use passata, it's quick and just as tasty.
Traditional recipes often use goat or sheep's milk ricotta, I haven't tried this but apparently it's delicious. The Spotted Pig in NYC made this version popular from a while back, then the rad Jamie Oliver did, but Gnudi have been a Tuscan specialty for a long time. I've also eaten some very light gnocchi that are made similarly but the semolina is mixed in the ricotta rather than just used as a coating. Gnudi are often made with butter and sage but like any pasta, it will take well to lots of sauces. This version is based on a simple dish called Gnudi di Ricotta al Sugo di Pomodoro. Quick fact: nudi = naked. These pasta balls are considered to be naked because they don't have the pasta sheet covering them.
375g tub of good quality ricotta, drained
50g parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Zest 1/2 small lemon
Fine semolina to coat
3 T olive oil
800g tomatoes, cut coarsely (Alternative: 1 bottle of passata)
2 cloves of garlic, cut in half
handful of fresh basil, torn
pinch of dried oregano
1. Mix the ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg, lemon zest and add salt and pepper (you can mix in finely cut herbs like basil at this point). Taste to check the balance of flavours, one flavour should not be too overpowering.
2. Cover a shallow dish with semolina. Using a large spoon, shape ricotta mixture into football shapes. Liberally coat the gnudi in the semolina, placing the gnudi on a separate tray lined with paper towels as you go. Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight (no less!), do not cover as the semolina will absorb the moisture.
3. Over medium heat, heat oil in a large heavy based fry pan. Add garlic and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, oregano and salt to taste. Cook on a low to medium heat for about 15 minutes or until tomatoes have broken down and flavours are infused. Pass the mixture through a fine mesh sieve, firmly pushing the sauce through - try not to leave any behind.
4. If you are using bottled passata, follow the same process, adding a little water if required (no need to pass it through the sieve of course!). If you are making the sauce ahead of time, allow to cool and refrigerate. When the gnudi are ready to be cooked, reheat the sauce in a medium heavy based pan over a low heat.
5. Get a large pot of salted water to the boil. The gnudi are done in about 2 minutes and I cook them in two batches. Take care of them (they are delicate), add them to the pot one at a time. Gently stir once to ensure they don't stick to the bottom. Once they rise to the top, remove using a slotted spoon, transferring them directly to the pan with the now warm sauce. Do the same for the next batch. Plate the gnudi you have cooked and covered liberally with sauce. Serve with freshly grated parmesan. You are in for a treat!