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.

Casual and 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. It also can be used as enticing vegetarian main dish, 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 that’s not a timeline I’ve needed to try so I can’t say one way or another.

Because this recipe makes about 40 golf-ball sized portions, there was quite a bit left over from a recent dinner party I hosted, so I froze the already-cooked gnudi with terrific success. All you do is plunk the frozen, cooked gundi in salted boiling water and cook for an extra couple of minutes – in fact they might even turn out better.

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

Gnudi epitomizes the simplicity of Italian cooking. Good ingredients, prepared with care, gnudi are at once casual and luxurious. An inviting option for a summer al fresco lunch, an elegant starter to a dinner party, or, since they can be made and and frozen so successfully, a welcome treat for a "fast" weeknight dinner. 
Makes: about 40 gnudi
Chef level: easy

For the Gnudi

  • 1 tub 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
  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 or San Marzano
  • 1 big bushel of fresh basil, left whole
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp salt
  • A few cranks black pepper
  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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