Gnudi are delicious fluffy, pillowy-light pasta dumplings.
These walnut-sized balls are often made from ricotta, parmesan, flour, and eggs and finished with some fine semolina flour. They are then dried a little bit to create a slightly firm “skin” before cooking. Gnudi, like gnocchi, need to be cooked for just 2 to 3 minutes.
Looking for a recipe without eggs, I stumbled on a cheat’s recipe of spinach gnudi on BBC Good Food. I am sure that many Italians will decry the cheat Gnudi methodology of blitzing Boursin garlic and herb cream cheese, fresh white breadcrumbs, wilted spinach, and a good grind of black pepper in a food processor. Nevertheless, it very quickly resulted in a tasty mixture. Not exactly pillowy-light due to the cream cheese but still very suitable for weekday cooking.
As the recipe only related to gnudi itself (albeit finished with some grating of Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of olive oil), I needed to look further to make it an entire meal. I read somewhere that New York’s very recently (temporarily?) closed Michelin-starred Rouge Tomate, served their ricotta gnudi “in a pool of Parmesan cream dotted with herb oil and topped with a woodsy tangle of chewy roasted mushrooms and deeply browned celery root”. That surely sounded very tempting! No recipe, no pictures, but a quick look in the fridge learned that I had all the ingredients for these elements but for the celery root.
The cheat’s gnudi recipe was meant for 2 persons, so I almost doubled it. With 250g / 9oz Boursin, 200g / 7oz fresh white breadcrumbs, and 400g / 14oz wilted spinach, you can handroll about 35 to 40 walnut-sized gnudi balls.
The herb oil was made by blitzing together 45g /1½ oz of basil, 15g / ½ oz of parsley and 15g / ½ oz of tarragon together with 125ml / ½ cup vegetable oil. You can go all cheffy by first blanching the basil and tarragon leaves and afterward straining the herb oil through a muslin cloth to get a bright-green clear oil, but I didn’t care to.
The parmesan sauce was effortless, as well. Just sweat 1 large finely chopped shallot in 1 tbsp butter, then when soft and golden, add 250ml / 1 cup of cooking cream and let it slightly thicken before adding 90g / 3oz of grated Parmesan, stirring occasionally. If the sauce becomes a bit too thick, you can add a tablespoon at the time of the hot gnudi cooking water.
In the meantime, in a frying pan on high heat, add 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp vegetable oil and then sauté 450g / 1 pound of mixed mushrooms until soft and caramelized. Finish with 1 tbsp chopped thyme.
Serve by creating a shallow pool of Parmesan cream, add some cooked gnudi and sauteed mushrooms, and drizzle over the herb oil.