Author Notes: This recipe was originally published in A Girl and Her Pig before being fine-tuned by J. Kenji López-Alt of Serious Eats.
You'll wonder how the texture—nearly melting ricotta cheese—is even possible on this planet. The magic spell (hate to ruin it for you) is actually a three-day, entirely hands-off preparation process: Stir together the cheeses, season with salt, form the mixture into balls, roll each one in semolina flour, then bury those in a pile of that flour and refrigerate for three days before boiling, briefly, in salted water.
If you're going to make the butter sauces, be sure to read the complete instructions before you begin cooking the gnudi. These final steps are the fussiest and the most hands-on: You melt butter in a nearby frying pan as the gnudi boil; then you transfer the cooked gnudi and splashes of their pasta water to the butter pan, turn the heat to high, and stir and shake the dumplings until they're covered with an emulsified butter sauce. This movement threatens the integrity of the fragile gnudi—and it's also difficult to make sure the butter sauce comes together with those baby gnudi in the way.
To avoid this precarious set-up, you can cut back the multitasking (I know, I know). Instead of simultaneously emulsifying butter sauce and tossing it with the gnudi, you can make beurre monté (emulsified butter sauce) as the gnudi cook, using a splash of their cooking liquid, and then spoon it over the cooked dumplings, flipping them very gently.
Or, skip the butter sauces entirely: The gnudi can hold the plate on their own. —Sarah Jampel
Serves: 4 to 6 as an appetizer (16 to 20 gnudi)
For the gnudi:
ounces great-quality ricotta (sheep or cow)
ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnishing
Freshly ground black pepper
cups fine semolina flour (sometimes sold as sooji), divided
For the butter sauces and serving.
tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
12 to 15
For the gnudi:
- Line a large plate with several layers of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel. Transfer the ricotta to the towels and spread it out with a spatula or the back of a spoon. Place more layers of paper towels (or an additional dish towel) over top and press down firmly with your hands to blot excess moisture. Peel off the towels.
- Weigh out 12 ounces of ricotta. (Reserve any leftovers for another use.) Scrape into a bowl, then add the grated Parmesan and season heavily with black pepper (if desired). Season with salt, taste, and adjust. Transfer to a clean plate, spread into a thin layer, and freeze for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pour half the semolina flour into a large bowl and the other into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
- Scrape the chilled ricotta mixture into a bowl and fold with a spatula so that no frozen chunks remain. Use a small cookie scoop or a spoon to form a ball of ricotta about 1 1/2 inches wide (2 tablespoons). Transfer to the bowl with the semolina, then use your fingers to cover it with semolina flour. Pick up the ball, roll it into a neat sphere with your hands, then nestle into the 9 by 13. Repeat until all the ricotta's been used—you should have between 16 and 20 gnudi.
- Cover the dish with plastic wrap, then put it in the fridge for 3 days, turning once a day. At the end of 3 days, you can cook the gnudi or you can freeze them. (Remove from the semolina, then freeze on a baking sheet until solid, about 1 hour, before transferring to a freezer bag for up to 2 months. When you want to cook them, thaw them overnight in the refrigerator on a plate covered with plastic wrap.)
- If you're making the butter sauces, skip to the directions below.
- To cook the gnudi, bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the gnudi and cook, stirring very gently, for about 3 minutes. Then use a slotted spoon to transfer the gnudi to plates or follow the steps below if you'd like to make the butter sauces.
For the butter sauces and serving.
- For the brown butter sauce, heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until foaming subsides, the butter solids have turned golden brown, and the butter smells nutty. Add sage leaves, season lightly with salt, and cook, flipping the leaves occasionally, until crisp, about 2 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the leaves to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Pour the brown butter into a bowl.
- As you bring the water for the gnudi to a boil, place the 4 tablespoons remaining butter in a medium skillet. Transfer the cooked gnudi to the skillet with a slotted spoon, making sure to bring plenty of their cooking liquid with them, place over high heat, and shake and stir gently so that the butter and pasta water emulsify into a creamy sauce, about 1 minute. Season with salt to taste.
- Transfer gnudi and their sauce to serving plates. Top with fried sage leaves and a drizzle of brown butter. Sprinkle with additional grated Parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
- This recipe is a Community Pick!