April Bloomfield's Ricotta Gnudi

December 20, 2016

Test Kitchen-Approved

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)

Ingredients

For the gnudi:

  • 16 ounces great-quality ricotta (sheep or cow)
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese, finely grated, plus more for garnishing
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt
  • 4 cups fine semolina flour (sometimes sold as sooji), divided

For the butter sauces and serving.

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 12 to 15 sage leaves
In This Recipe

Directions

For the gnudi:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Meanwhile, pour half the semolina flour into a large bowl and the other into a 9- by 13-inch baking dish.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.)
  6. If you're making the butter sauces, skip to the directions below.
  7. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

More Great Recipes:
Pasta|Italian|Ricotta|Sage|Semolina|Cheese|Weekend Cooking|Appetizer|Side|Entree

Reviews (11) Questions (0)

11 Reviews

Austin B. August 18, 2018
Made probably close to 100 recipes at Food52, and this was easily the biggest flop. Gnudi hit the water and immediately dissolved. And that was after more than 72 hours. Not gonna give it a rating on the possibility of user error, but I'll stick with Grandma DiLaura's Gnocchi.
 
Marla December 25, 2017
I add egg beaten into grated Parmesan & Romano with 1 half tsp salt . add ricotta drained over colander for 3 days .Then add semolina with a spatula folding in just until mixed . Form into ball . Back into fridge . When re chilled take out slice off pieces . Roll into snake cut of equal bits . Roll over Gnocchi board or reverse fork tines , onto silpat or parchment. Dust lightly with semolina. Rest and then boil until they float . Spoon and make brown butter sage with crispy pancetta sauce .. serve with extra grated cheese
 
Marla December 25, 2017
I add egg beaten into grated Parmesan & Romano with 1 half tsp salt . add ricotta drained over colander for 3 days .Then add semolina with a spatula folding in just until mixed . Form into ball . Back into fridge . When re chilled take out slice off pieces . Roll into snake cut of equal bits . Roll over Gnocchi board or reverse fork tines , onto silpat or parchment. Dust lightly with semolina. Rest and then boil until they float . Spoon and make brown butter sage with crispy pancetta sauce .. serve with extra grated cheese
 
erin January 5, 2017
My friends and I always order these at the Spotted Pig so I made them for us for New Year's Eve a few years ago. We still talk now about how good they were. They're a perfect dinner party dish since the last-minute work is so minimal. Do leave them *at least* 48 hours - it's really not worth the risk of boiling them earlier and ending up with soup.
 
Nancy H. December 13, 2017
But it all seems a little awful now given what she tolerated there.
 
tessga January 1, 2017
These didn't work out for me at all, I followed the minimum refrigeration of 24 hours but as soon as I cooked these for 3 minutes then tossed them into a pan...they totally turned into ricotta fondue. No idea what went wrong, they were very dry to the touch and i made and drained homemade ricotta. It was a waste of good ingredients and a plate of melted ricotta is not as delicious as it might sound. :-(
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. January 1, 2017
So sorry to hear that, tessga! Did you use the 24 hour recommendation from Serious Eats? I recommend 3 days—I had no luck when I tried it for a shorter period of time!
 
tessga January 1, 2017
Yes, Serious Eats instructions said a minimum of one day and they seemed perfectly dry with a bit of skin. (I unfortunately didn't plan for it 3 days ahead but wanted to make for New Years Day dinner. ) They boiled fine but as soon as they went into the butter pan, full melt. From the comments there, it looks like I'm definitely not alone, results are totally mixed.
 
Author Comment
Sarah J. January 1, 2017
Ah yes, sorry! I read those comments, too. I had no success with 24 hours but great success with 72, as I tried to specify. I hope you were able to save some of the cheese anyway!
 
tessga January 1, 2017
Thanks for the info. I might try again some day. The melted cheese was still delicious but we just couldn't eat that many spoonfuls of it. :-) (shockingly.)
 
whatcecesees January 1, 2017
I made these for New Year's Eve starters and served with roasted hokkaido pumpkin. The crispy sage leaves, creamy cheese balls, and most substantial squash topped with brown butter sauce was delightful! Thanks for posting this as I missed it on Serious Eats!