How to Make Gnudi

Gnudi means “naked” as in an inside out ravioli. While a typical ravioli is filled with spinach and ricotta, gnudi is made entirely of the filling mixture, held together with a little flour. Its a great alternative to eating pasta, especially for those who are gluten free! Serve it with a sage-butter sauce as a delightful appetizer.

The recipe below is very easy to make. You don’t want to make gnudi day before as it may dry out.

gnudi recipe

Ingredients for Gnudi:

  • 1.5 cups Ricotta cheese
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen spinach
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 egg yolks (leave out if vegetarian)
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup 00 pasta flour (more for dusting)

Ingredients for Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 8-10 fresh sage leaves

Steam the spinach leaves in a large pot until they are fully cooked. Drain the spinach using a sieve and allow for all the water to soak through. The spinach should be cool and dry before its ready to use. If there’s water remaining, then the gnudi will not hold together. Chop the spinach roughly and keep aside.

In a large mixing bowl, add spinach, ricotta, nutmeg, parmesan, eggs, flour and salt. Mix well until the dough is of uniform consistency. It will be soft to touch. Using your hands, take a walnut size pinch of the dough and shape it into a ball. Sprinkle flour on your hands and the gnudi if it starts to feel sticky.

Keep aside the gnudi balls and sprinkle more flours.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil ( same way you would make pasta) and drop in prepared gnudi gently. The balls will be cooked once they rise to the surface of boiling water (about 5 minutes). Remove with a strainer spatula and keep aside. Make sure the excess water is drained.

To make the sauce, heat the butter in a fry pan. Once the butter starts to brown, add the fresh sage leave and cook them for 2-3 minutes until fried. Pour over the gnudi and serve immediately.

Here is the original recipe for GNUDI in Italian courtesy of Luisa Donati, at Montestigliano Società agricola s.r.l.

INGREDIENTI PER 4 PERSONE

  • 350g di ricotta
  • 1 kg di bietole o spinaci
  • Parmigiano grattugiato q.b.
  • Una spolverata di noce moscata
  • Sale q.b.
  • Farina q.b.
  • 40g di burro
  • Qualche foglia di salvia fresca

Lavare accuratamente le verdure e bollirle in poca acqua salata per circa 10 minuti.

Scolarle bene e lasciarle raffreddare nello scolapasta affinchè si elimini tutta l’acqua in eccesso; quindi strizzarle con cura fra le mani e tritarle grossolanamente con un coltello.

Mischiare in una terrina le verdure con la ricotta, aggiungere la noce moscata e il parmigiano, aggiustare di sale; deve risultare un composto omogeneo e abbastanza asciutto.

Formare con le mani infarinate delle polpettine grandi come una noce, infarinarle bene e posarle in un piatto spolverato di farina.

Shells with gorgonzola and pistachios

You might think pasta, pistachios and the strong flavor of gorgonzola make for an odd combination, but it works! It is so easy to make and only takes a few minutes. The dish is quite rich so I recommend serving it as a side to a meat entree.

I served it at our Italian conversation club, Ciancia meeting and everyone asked me for the recipe!

Tip: Do not make ahead of time

shells with gorgonzola

Shells with Gorgonzola and Pistachios (Serves 4)

1/3 cup pistachios, skinned and chopped
3.5 oz diced Gorgonzola cheese
2 tablespoons heavy cream
11 oz shell pasta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt to taste
 
Cook the shells in salt until al dente. Drain and transfer to a serving dish. Melt the Gorgonzola and cream in a pan on low heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat and keep aside. 
Mix together the shells with all the ingredients. Serve immediately.

Pasta heaven at Babbo

It had been a wish for a long time to eat at Babbo Ristorante Enoteca in New York City. I have read a lot about this Mario Batali’s famous establishment. All famous food writers and restaurant critics have raved about the place over the last decade. Therefore, it seems only natural that I needed to experience it first hand.

My friend and I decided to test our fate one Sunday afternoon when we called Babbo for a dinner reservation. “We are completely booked but have 6 tables for walk-ins” they said. We showed up at the restaurant at 6pm and got a table right away. This was going to be a good night!

After an appertif of the cherry belini, we struggled through the menu. I finally made it here after many attempts and now have to chose what to eat? As luck would have it yet again, there were tasting menus. All we had to decide was if we were going to have the 8-course pasta tasting or the traditional tasting menu. We decided to go with pasta.

The first course was Black Tagliatelle with Peas and Castelmagno.For short, it was squid ink tagliatelle pasta with a sauce of green pea soup and Parmesan cheese. OK, but not my favorite.

The second course was far more interesting and colorful. “Casunzei”with Poppy Seeds aka a silky thin beet ravioli with caramelized leeks in a light olive oil and butter sauce, with sprinkled of poppy seeds. Now, we are talking!

There was Garganelli with “Funghi Trifolati” for the third course. Earthy truffled mushrooms with delicate homemade pasta, sprinkled with goat cheese was a delight to the taste buds.

The third course consisted of “Agnolotti al Pomodo,” a dense beef ravioli with tomato sauce. You could taste the fresh sweetness of the tomatoes against the al dente pasta.

My least favorite was the Spaghettini with Spicy Budding Chives and Lobster. Perhaps by this time I was too full to enjoy anymore pasta or the dish didn’t do anything for me. It was a regular spaghetti marinara with a few pieces of overcooked lobster meat.

The first dessert course (or intermezzo) was a delightful sweet and savory creation that I had not had before. The “Tipo Romano Fritto con Uvette” was a  soft creamy ricotta ball that was deep fried to perfection and served with a hint of sweetness from roasted muscat grapes. If I go back to Babbo, I will definitely order this again.

Next came Chocolate “al Diavolo,” a rich chocolate mousse with red chili flakes. Three words to describe this dish – to die for! The mousse was light, airy and had just the right amount of chocolate that won’t overwhelm you. The chili brought out the flavors even more.

The last course was an Olive Oil Rosemary Cake with Olive Oil Gelato. It was a dense sponge cake against a lucious olive oil and rosemary gelato. I just ate the gelato part of it.

I told you it was going to be my lucky day! We were served another complimentary  dessert – a Chocolate Hazelnut Cake with Orange Sauce and Hazelnut Gelato. This was Mario’s version of a chocolate souffle. My friend seemed to have loved this dessert the best of everything we tried. I found the chocolate to be quite heavy (as expected to be) but the gelato was excellent. The orange sauce was a nice addition.

8 courses, 3 hours, 4000 calories and $200 later, I was so full that I couldn’t move. The meal was not only satisfying, it was an experience for all of the senses. Thumbs up for Mario! It is not something I would recommend you eat everyday, but worth a special occasion. We decided we could use the 30 minutes walk from the restaurant (near Washington Square Park) to Times Square and burn off some of that heavenly pasta and dolci.

Fun things to do during the summer holidays

It’s summer time already. The temperature is rising, the economy is still tight and the kids are out of school. It’s time to go to the pool, watch movies and have sleep-overs. But after a few days, you will get tired of all that. If you are scratching your heads on how to keep yourself and your kids entertained this summer without breaking your budget, I have a few ideas for you that involve food, travel and volunteerism.

Go

Plan a road trip to a nearby destination. Pack everyone into your car and head to a lake or beach. Rent a summer home for the week where you can cook your own food and play games. Even if you don’t have anything planned, here are some ideas for last minute trips.

Travel exchange programs are also a great way to stay for free in another city, or even country. Families can exchange homes, stay on farms, or be guests at no charge.

If you have decided to stay put this summer, you are in for a staycation. Which means you can be a tourist in your city and plan to do activities that you would otherwise do while travelling. Lodging and travel costs excluded of course.

Eat

Take a break from the regular summer camps and enrolls in a cooking camp. Learn to be a Food Network star or improve your awareness of food and nutrition. Kids and teens would also learn to work in teams and cooperate with one another.

Cooking with family at home can also be a lot of fun. Get the kids together for a fun day of making pasta, gelato, sushi or chocolate from scratch. It can be a rewarding learning experience that will bring the family together.

Give

There is no shortage of volunteering opportunities in every city. Enroll in a project or associate yourself with a cause. Make it a daily/ weekly schedule to visit an old home, children’s hospital or women’s shelter. Some of these can be quite entertaining as well, such as leading arts and crafts, sporting activities for other kids. Many charities are looking for interns during the summer who can help them with day-to-day administrative things, organizing events, etc.

By the end of summer, you would have used your time effectively to impact the lives of people and feel good about yourself.

If you have any ideas of your own to share, please leave a comment below.

Chateau du Sucheta

On March 20, my neighbor Daniel Sklar wrote: Sucheta served a lovingly prepared three-course meal for four. 

She began the evening with an aperitif of red wine.  Her husband, Dipak, served as sommelier.  She expertly had on hand a nicely chilled non-alcoholic cold duck (a type of sparkling wine made from Visit SmileyCookie.com!burgundy and champagne) for the non-drinkers.  This was a nice touch.

A tasty salad was served as the first course.  Fresh baby spinach leaves were mixed with baby carrots, golden raisins, walnuts, almonds, pistachios, dried cranberries, and shredded cheeses.  The salad was tossed with a dressing made of apple vinegar and three cheeses.  A sliced avocado, ripe and of just the right softness, was added to give a wonderful creaminess to the starter.

The second course was a Sucheta specialty:  homemade roasted butternut squash ravioli.  A filling of pureed butternut squash, mascarpone cheese, parmesean cheese, and cinnamon was prepared.  Next, fresh pasta was made with semolina, rolled out with a pasta maker, and used with the squash filling to make individual ravioli.  The ravioli was cooked quickly in boiling water, drained, and immediately served with a light sauce of sage-infused olive oil and toasted walnuts.  Scrumptious!

The third course was a homemade chocolate mousse tart served a la mode with homemade dulce de leche gelato.  The bittersweet chocolate was a perfect compliment to the flaky crust.

The verdict:  elegant, tasty, and fully satisfying.  Sucheta has done it again!