Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Tomato-Butter Sauce

Since my wife and I are foodies, our recent trip to Curacao included hitting one of the ten top ranked restaurants (according to Trip Advisor) each day we were there (we managed eight).

So when I came home, my first gourmet night was a little nerve-racking: How could I compete with the extraordinary dishes we had just experienced? I couldn’t disappoint my wife that soon after such a great culinary experience.

So I decided to make my own Gnudi and see what happened. Gnudi is basically “ravioli filling without the pasta,” according to Gotham Bldg Tavern (New York City) chef, Tommy Habetz (originator of this recipe). Turns out it was a hit with a fresh, tasty dough that soaked up the sauce perfectly.

INGREDIENTS
1 stick of unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 small onion, halved
1 bay leaf
pinch of crushed red pepper
one 28 ounce can diced Italian plum tomatoes
salt
2 cups spinach, stems discarded
1 tub of fresh ricotta (apx 1.5-2lbs)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
2 cups all purpose flour

METHOD
1) In a large, deep skillet, melt the butter. Add the garlic, onion, bay leaf and red pepper and cook over moderate heat until the garlic is fragrant. Add the tomatoes and their  juices and bring to a boil. Simmer the sauce over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened and reduced to 2 and 1/2 cups (about 1, 1/2 hrs). Discard the garlic, onion and bay leaf. Season the sauce with salt and keep warm. (If you desire, you can chop up the onion and put it back but Tommy prefers it sans-onion)

2) Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet. Add the spinach, a handful at a time, and stir over moderately high heat until wilted; transfer to a colander; let cool slightly. Squeeze the spinach dry and finely chop it.

3) Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. In a food processor, combine the spinach with the ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, and the 1/4 cup of Parmesan and process until blended. Add the flour in 3 batches, pulsing between additions, until almost incorporated. Scrape the ngudi dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5-10 times, until smooth.

4) Add one-fourth of the gnudi dough to a large, resealable plastic bag; with scissors, cut a 1/2 inch corner from the bag. Working over the boiling water, squeeze the dough through the corner opening and use a knife to cut it into 1-inch pieces. Cook the gnudi over moderately high heat until firm, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or sire skimmer, transfer the gnudi to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough.

5) Carefully transfer the gnudi to the tomato sauce and stir lightly to heat through. Spoon into shallow bowls and serve at once, passing more Parmesan at the table.

Pair with a fresh Tuscan white wine (this is a Tuscan dish), or a light Chardonnay.

This and other recipes occasionally pop up in the Artichoke Hart series (available here), or the London Cartwright series (available here). Both chefs are fictional… the dishes are not.

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