Lemony Spinach-Ricotta Gnudi in Tomato Basil-Sauce

An overview picture of a white bowl with tomato sauce and eight, white, round gnudi dumplings flecked with green spinach.

Casually luxurious, gnudi are the embodiment of classic Italian cooking. 

by Erin Henderson

If you are at all nervous about hosting dinner parties, this gnudi recipe is your godsend.

It's easy to put together with readily available ingredients from any decently stocked supermarket, can be made well in advance, and is mind-blowingly delcious. This can also double as a stylish vegetarian main, or elegant starter to a larger meal.  

Gnudi roughly translates to “naked” in Italian. It's a ricotta dumpling, sort of like what one might stuff into a ravioli, but without the pasta casing – hence, the naked reference.

This recipe comes from America’s Test Kitchen and is absolutely brilliant in its full-proof execution.

Not only does it come together like a dream, but it can also easily be made ahead and stored in the freezer until you need it. ATK suggests up to 3 months, if I’m not mistaken, though I’ve always eaten them much quicker, so I can’t say one way or another.

I almost always have a batch ready to go in my freezer. Gnudi are a marvellous solution for quick weekenight meals when I'm in a hurry, or simply too tired to do much more than plop a few in a pot of boiling water. 

The tomato sauce recipe is a loaner from my pasta teacher at George Brown College. Here, I recommend letting it simmer for as long as you can for a deep and rich flavour, but if you’ve only got a few minutes, no worries. While it won’t be thick and reduced the way a long, slow, gentle bubble will provide, the quick version is bright and fresh. So up to you, based on your time, and your preference.

Lemony Spinach Ricotta Gnudi with Tomato-Basil Sauce

This recipe freezes really well. In fact, I think they even hold their shape better when cooked frozen than fresh, so it's a terrific option to whip up ahead of time and keep in the freezer for fast, weeknight meals. 

Makes: about 30, golf-ball sized, gnudi
Chef level: easy

For the Gnudi
  • 340 g whole milk ricotta, drained
  • 1, 10 oz pkg frozen, chopped spinach, drained, and squeezed dry 
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 Tbsp Panko
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • A few cranks freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 dashes cayenne, optional
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 2 egg whites, beaten
How to Make It: 
  1. Press the ricotta between two sheet of paper towel to squeeze out any excess water
  2. Do the same to the spinach – you need a really dry mixture to keep the gnudi intact.
  3. In mixing bowl, add flour through cayenne and mix.
  4. Add drained ricotta and spinach, lemon zest and egg whites and stir to combine into a sticky-ish mass.
  5. Using your hands, portion out a golf-ball sized blob and roll to form a nice sphere.
  6. Place uncooked gnudi on a lined parchment paper and keep going. You will end up with about 40 gnudi.
  7. Boil a large pot of water and salt it with a few Tablespoons of salt.
  8. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lower the gnudi into boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. To check doneness, remove one and bite into it, decide if it needs another minute or if it’s cooked through.
  9. Place into warmed bowls with a shallow pool of tomato sauce, sprinkle with more Parmesan, if desired and serve.
For the Tomato Sauce
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed but left whole
  • ¼ cup dry white wine
  • 398 ml jar of good quality passata, such as Mutti 
  • 1 big bushel of fresh basil, left whole
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • A few cranks black pepper
How to Make It: 
  1. Warm the olive oil and garlic in a good-sized pot over medium-low heat, allowing to gently simmer util very fragrant and the cloves are golden brown. Remove from oil and save for another use.
  2. Add in the wine and cook down for a minute or two.
  3. Pour in the whole jar of passata, seasoning lightly with chili flakes, salt and pepper.
  4. Add in the whole branch of basil and allow to simmer gently for at least 20 minutes and up to 90.
  5. Remove basil from sauce and discard.
  6. Ladle a small puddle into the bottom of a pasta bowl and place a few gnudi on top.
  7. Serve with fresh bread, spread with the roasted garlic cloves.
Wine Pairing:

Gnudi are light and airy, with a gentle touch of richness from the cheese, so you want a wine that's equally light so as not to overwhelm the dish.

Go with a northern Italian white; my first thought is Soave, a light-to-medium body white wine from the Veneto made by the Garganega grape. It's bright and fresh with notes of citrus, herbs and salty minerality. 

This will pair nicely with the gnudi, as the acidity will cut through the cheese and match with the tomato sauce. The herbal notes will compliment the spinach, and the light body, will frame the delicate gnudi well. 



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