We've been spoiled over the years with access to exceptional ricotta - first in New York with Salvatore BKLYN and with 3-Corner Field Farm's wonderful sheep's milk version, and now in RI with Narragansett Creamery's award-winning ricotta. My favorite way to eat it is straight from the container, but for something a little fancier I love making gnudi, light little ricotta dumplings. This recipe is an old standby, one which I shared with EdibleRhody magazine in 2009 to accompany an article about Narragansett Creamery and their wonderful cheeses. It's one of our favorites to this day, and I hope you'll like it too. - lastnightsdinner —lastnightsdinner
Test Kitchen Notes
These gnudi give ricotta the spotlight it rightly deserves—tender and toothsome, light yet hearty, these Ping-Pong sized dumplings are just right. The gnudi are not at all overwhelmed by the other ingredients, just enhanced (enchanted, really). The drained ricotta fluffs up nicely with a spatula and absorbs the egg, cheese, and flour like a dream. The aromatic breadcrumbs, bright, lemony sauce and gnudi create the perfect light meal.
Note: I only ended up with 1/2 cup of cooked (young red) chard, but that could be because the chard was very compact after draining well. —CookLikeMad
young red or rainbow chard (can substitute Lacinato kale, spinach, or another dark leafy green)
egg (the pastured eggs we buy are in the large to extra-large range)
finely grated Pecorino Romano
Kosher or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
medium lemon (preferably organic), zested and juiced
unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for forming
stick plus 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
Drain the ricotta in a cheesecloth-lined strainer suspended over a bowl for at least 2 hours at room temperature. Save or discard the whey.
Clean the chard well in plenty of cool water to remove any grit. Pat dry and remove the stems by folding the leaves like a book with the stem facing out, and cutting at an angle. Roll the leaves into a cigar shape, cut it in half lengthwise, then chop into small pieces. Cook the chard in boiling, salted water for 5 minutes, drain, cool, and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. You should end up with about 1 cup of chopped chard. (This step can be done ahead of time.)
Transfer the strained ricotta to a deep mixing bowl, and beat it with a flexible spatula or the back of a spoon until fluffy. Lightly beat the egg and add it to the ricotta along with the grated cheese. Add a pinch of salt, a grinding or two of pepper, and a teaspoon or so of lemon zest.
Add the cooked chard and 1/2 cup of flour to the ricotta mixture and stir until the flour is completely incorporated into the batter and the chard is evenly distributed throughout.
Lightly flour your hands and scoop out a spoonful of the batter. Gently roll it into a sphere about the size of a large gumball. Place on a parchment-lined tray or sheet pan and repeat until you have rolled out all of the batter (you should end up with about two dozen gnudi). Refrigerate the gnudi until you are ready to boil them (the gnudi can also be frozen at this point).
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
In a wide skillet, melt the 2 Tablespoons of butter. Add the breadcrumbs and stir well, then cook until they are browned and crisp. Remove the breadcrumbs to a bowl and toss them with about a teaspoon each of fresh thyme leaves and lemon zest.
Wipe out the skillet and melt the remaining stick of butter. Add several thyme sprigs and cook over low heat, being careful not to brown the butter. Add the lemon juice to the pan, stirring through.
Add the gnudi to the boiling water in batches. When the gnudi float to the top of the pot, allow them to cook a minute or two before removing them with a spider or slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate, repeating until all are cooked.
Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the starchy water to the butter and lemon mixture, stirring through. Remove the thyme stems and discard.
Add the cooked gnudi to the lemon-thyme butter and toss gently. Divide the gnudi and sauce between 4-6 warmed, shallow bowls, topping each serving with some of the lemon-thyme breadcrumbs.