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Your new favourite starter

This week we’re cooking spinach and ricotta gnudi.

Gnudi are to food, what George Clooney is to 60-year old mothers. Classic, extremely satisfying, and likely to cause long periods of delicious daydreaming.

In short, gnudi are essentially naked ravioli (you get the filling but no pasta shell). They’re a classic Tuscan dish. Super easy to make. Extremely satisfying to wolf down.

This week’s album
Everything All The Time by Band of Horses

Another debut album to feature on EMW, this time from Seattle-based ‘Band of Horses’. It’s their only album that features all original band members, and is a slow, emotionally charged one with lead singer Ben Bridwell’s vocals dominating. ‘The Funeral’ is a particularly melancholic, but equally great track.

A timeless filling in an Italian classic

Gnudi are gnocchi-like dumplings. If ever a dish said, “I know you’ve had a hard week so come and have an evening with me and I’ll cuddle you in an oversized sheep-skin blanket while we watch The Notebook,” then gnudi are said-dish.

We’re going to use spinach and ricotta - one of the most common ravioli fillings - and combine them with egg and flour to make what is a hybrid between a filling and gnocchi. The result is wonderfully soft, light, and pillowy morsels of savoury goodness.

Another classic spinach and ricotta combo are crespelle alla Fiorentina (essentially pancakes with delicious stuffing)

Gnudi, sometimes called ‘malfatti’ (‘badly made’), can be served with a number of different sauces or garnishes. Most traditionally they’re simply accompanied by a sage and butter sauce and an extra generous dusting of parmesan.

This is what we’re going to do this week as it’s often best to do things as they’ve always been done (see Brexit for more details). However, if you want to mix it up you could try serving them in a rich tomato sauce.

The key to making good gnudi lies with semolina. It’s the type of flour that is used for making most dried pasta and is used in this recipe to coat the outside of the gnudi. This is really important as the semolina forms a skin or crust when they rest in the fridge which helps them keep their shape when cooked.

A nice trick to shape the gnudi is to use a wine glass. Dust the inside of the glass with some semolina, drop in a scoop of the gnudi mixture, and then swirl the glass (just like you would to release the aromas from a glass of wine) until a ball is formed. Note: this trick isn’t essential as you get the same result by rolling the gnudi between floured hands.

What you need

The below serves 4 (as a starter). It takes 25 mins to prep (plus chilling time) and 10 mins to cook.

1 tbsp olive oil

250g spinach (washed)

250g ricotta

2 egg yolks

30g dried breadcrumbs

40g plain flour

60g finely grated parmesan (plus extra for serving)

¼ nutmeg (finely grated)

Fine semolina flour (for dusting)

40g butter

20 sage leaves

¼ lemon (juice only)

Sea salt & black pepper

Ready, steady, cook

1. Heat a large pan and, when hot, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and the spinach. Cook on a high heat, stirring constantly, for a minute (or until the spinach has completely wilted). Transfer the spinach to a tray, spread it out, and leave to cool.

2. Once cool, use a clean tea towel (one that’s not too precious) to wring out the water from the spinach. Really try to remove as much water as possible (this will help to form the gnudi).

3. Finely chop the spinach, then add it to a mixing bowl along with the ricotta, egg yolks, breadcrumbs, grated nutmeg, parmesan, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Combine everything really well until you have a uniform mixture. Finally, gently stir through the plain flour until the mixture is uniform again.

4. Add a considerable amount of semolina to a baking tray. This is what we’re going to place the gnudi on once they’re formed. There needs to be enough semolina so that each one can be coated in it.

5. Divide the mixture equally into 12 (they’ll be about 40g each). Dust your hands (or a wine glass) with some semolina and mould them into balls (these are your gnudi). Place the gnudi onto the tray of semolina and roll each one around until it’s covered in a thin coating of semolina.

Transfer the gnudi, uncovered, to the fridge to rest and set. The semolina will form a sort of ‘crust’ that will help them keep their shape. They’ll need a minimum of an hour in the fridge but will be happy for any length of time up to 24 hrs.

6. When you’re ready to cook the gnudi, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Gently drop in the gnudi and cook for 4 mins. If you’re cooking more and have doubled the recipe, you might need to cook the gnudi in batches. If doing this, they can be kept warm in the butter sauce in the next step.

7. While the gnudi are cooking, add the butter to a large frying pan. When it’s foaming, add the sage leaves and fry for a minute or so, until the leaves start to crisp.

8. When the gnudi are ready they should float to the surface. Using a slotted spoon to remove them, add them to the sage butter. Add a little of the cooking water to the butter and swirl the pan until a buttery emulsion has formed. Season with a little lemon juice, sea salt and black pepper.

Serve in bowls and grate over plenty of extra parmesan.

Final thought

Nothing to add this week so I’ll just direct you over to the Eat My Words recipe page where you can catch up on everything we’ve done in the past few weeks.

Same time next week,


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