Tender ricotta dumplings or gnudi in a velvety tomato sauce with lots of olive oil and garlic – Italian food at its best.
This is another amazing Italian recipe from Rosa’s beautiful blog For the Love of Italian Cooking. This recipe for Gnudi – Ricotta Dumplings – with Tomato Sauce – Italian Food is the fourth recipe I’ve cooked following Rosa’s recipes. The first one I have ever made was her glorious Tiramisu, I’ve made that dessert lots of times while Rosa was still alive…
The other two I have cooked, after Rosa passed away in March, were Rosa’s Ultimate Homemade Meat Sauce for Pasta or Macerated Strawberries with Sugar and Whipped Cream. If you had a chance to read these last two blog posts, you might know that Rosa, who was a mother of three small children was killed in an act of domestic violence by her own husband. So sad! And even sadder is that this kind of things happen every day somewhere in the world.
According to the World Health Organisation “almost one third (30%) of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner in their lifetime”. And “globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by a male intimate partner”.
Gnudi – Ricotta Dumplings – with Tomato Sauce – Italian Food
Rosa said that this recipe for gnudi reminded her of her mother’s and grandmother’s ricotta dumplings simmered in tomato sauce, a typical recipe from Calabria. However, the gnudi are a typical peasant recipe from Tuscany and according to Rosa “the story goes that many moons ago, someone didn’t feel like making the pasta dough for ravioli, so they simply rolled the filling between two spoons, and called them naked ravioli.”
Usually, the ricotta gnudi are also made with spinach and are rolled into small balls similar to gnocchi. This particular recipe requires to form the gnudi with the help of two tablespoons.
The tomato sauce served with the gnudi is a genuine recipe from Rosa’s nonna, using lots of garlic and olive oil. I don’t usually take that much oil when cooking, but I’ve made an exception in this case because I wanted the sauce to taste exactly like Rosa’s. And what can I say? It was amazing!
How to make gnudi with ricotta?
There was a time when I used to think that making dumplings was difficult… so I avoided making any kind of dumplings for a long time, the only ones I was making were the semolina dumplings from our favorite Romanian chicken soup.
But after once making dumplings following a good recipe, I stopped thinking that making dumplings was difficult or too much trouble. Actually, they are not difficult at all and not much trouble either, most dumplings I make are stirred in a few minutes and cooked in just a few minutes more.
The only challenge when making dumplings is finding exactly the right amount of flour that comes into the dough. Too much flour will cause your dumplings to be too sturdy and too little flour will cause them to disintegrate in the cooking water.
Usually, knowing exactly how much you need comes with a little experience, if you have made the dumplings a couple of times, you will be able to see how much more flour you need. The quantity greatly depends on the size of the eggs, on the amount of moisture in the ricotta and even on the type of flour you use.
I drained the ricotta for two hours prior to making the gnudi. I think this was the reason I needed slightly less flour than Rosa needed for her gnudi. I measured the flour exactly like indicated and added the last tablespoons little by little, in the end I was left with two tablespoons unused flour. However, if you do not drain the ricotta at all, which is fine as well, you will probably need the entire quantity of extra flour indicated.
The mixture should be a bit dense and should hold its shape when trying to form a dumpling. If it doesn’t hold its shape, add a little bit more flour, just a little at a time, stirring and trying again.
Forming the gnudi with two tablespoons is a piece of cake. Take about ¾ tablespoon dough and remove it from the first spoon with the help of the second spoon. Repeat 2 or 3 times more until you have a nicely formed gnudi. Rosa recommends watching this video, it will make things clearer.
An important thing when cooking gnudi or gnocchi is to have the water only simmering. If your water boils, the dumplings will probably fall apart. So, bring a large pot of water to a boil, add salt, turn down the heat and let the water get to a simmer before adding the gnudi to the water. If the water boils too hard, add a little cold water to calm it down a little.
The gnudi will rise to the top of the pot quite soon, but that doesn’t mean they are done yet. Don’t take them out too soon or they will be too doughy. It took my gnudi about five minutes to be ready, but check after 4 minutes or so, the cooking time depends on their size as well. When ready, the gnudi should be cooked through yet very tender. Cut one in the middle, the inside should be fluffy and not doughy.
Cook the gnudi in two or more batches depending on the size of your pot. Mine is pretty large, so two batches were enough.
The gnudi can be made in advance and reheated either in hot water or directly in the tomato sauce. Cooked gnudi can be frozen as well. Give them frozen to the hot water and let them simmer until heated through.
How to make tomato sauce for gnudi?
Rosa’s tomato sauce for the Gnudi – Ricotta Dumplings – with Tomato Sauce – Italian Food is very easy and quick to make and, due to all that olive oil and garlic, extremely delicious.
I would like to point out that you could definitely make your tomato sauce using less oil, but maybe, just for a change, you would like to try this version, it is really good.
The garlic is cooked in the oil until it becomes fragrant, but make sure that you don’t let it burn, this will cause the sauce to taste bitter. If, by any chance, that does happen, remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and discard it. Chop fresh garlic and start again.
I used pomodoro passato – unseasoned pureed tomato sauce – just like Rosa recommends. Actually, I have only started using this kind of pomodoro passato quite recently, after seeing it recommended by Rosa so many times. If you cannot find it, you can use regular tomato puree or two cans of tomatoes (400 g/ 14 oz each) which you have to puree yourself first.
Depending on the brand of pureed tomatoes you use, you might need to add an extra teaspoon sugar to the sauce, it depends on the acidity of the tomatoes. I did add some this time, but that is not always necessary. I find the addition of sugar necessary mostly in the case of quickly made tomato sauces. If your sauce has the time to cook for at least one hour, you will probably not need any sugar anymore, the longer cooking time will help neutralize the acidity of the tomatoes.
Other dumpling recipes:
- Tomato sauce:
- 125 ml/ 4.2 fl.oz/ ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large garlic cloves
- 800 g/ 28 oz tomato puree (pomodoro passato) or 2 cans of tomatoes (400 g / 14 oz each)
- ½ to 1 teaspoon sugar
- salt to taste
- Gnudi, about 30:
- 500 g/ 17.6 oz/ 2 cups ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
- 65 g/ 2.3 oz/ 5/8 cup Parmesan, freshly grated
- 70 g/ 2.4 oz/ ½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour + approximately the same amount extra flour
- about ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
If you have the time drain the ricotta for several hours. I drained mine for 2 hours.
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Finely chop the garlic and cook it in the oil until it starts to change its color and becomes fragrant. Don't leave it unattended, it can burn very quickly. If it burns, remove it from the oil with a slotted spoon, discard it, chop fresh garlic and start again, paying more attention.
If using canned tomatoes, puree them first. If using already pureed tomatoes, carefully give them to the saucepan. Add about ½ teaspoon sugar, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer the sauce for about 10-15 minutes. Add more sugar, if necessary, and salt to taste.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare the gnudi during the time the water needs to come to a boil.
Give the ricotta, the lightly beaten egg and egg yolk, Parmesan, 70 g/ ½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour, salt and pepper to a bowl. Stir very well until some kind of ball is formed. Gradually add some of the extra flour, one tablespoon at a time. I measured the extra 70 g/ ½ cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour in a separate bowl and I was left with 2 tablespoons extra flour. If you didn't drain the ricotta at all, you might need all the extra flour. If you drained the ricotta for longer than two hours, you might need even less than I did. The dough should feel a little resistant and should hold its shape when you try to form a gnudi.
Dust a large baking sheet generously with flour. Form the gnudi with the help of two tablespoons.
Take about ¾ tablespoon dough and remove it from the first spoon with the help of the second spoon. Repeat 2 or 3 times more until you have a nicely formed gnudi. Watch the video recommended above, if you would like to see how the gnudi should be formed. Place the formed gnudi on the floured baking tray.
When the water boils, add some salt and turn the heat down to allow the water to come to a simmer. Do not let the water boil at any time while the gnudi are in the water. Cook the gnudi in two batches. The gnudi will rise to the top of the pan rather quickly, but they need about 5-6 minutes cooking time. They are ready when they are cooked through, don't look doughy anymore and the inside is soft and fluffy.
Remove the gnudi from the water with a slotted spoon and let them drain well in a sieve. Cook the second batch.
Serve the gnudi with the sauce and more Parmesan.
The gnudi can be made in advance and reheated in simmering water or in the sauce. They can also be frozen and given in this state directly to the hot water. Leave in the hot water until fully reheated.