You’ve heard of gnocchi, the Italian dumpling made with potatoes, but what about gnudi? Translated to English, the word “gnudi” means exactly what it sounds like, “nude.” That’s because this Tuscan take on gnocchi is similar to the filling of a ravioli. If you strip off the pasta, take the filling, add some flour, greens and seasonings, then cook just that, you essentially have yourself gnudi.
Much like gnocchi, gnudi is a soft, pasta-like dumpling that nearly melts in your mouth. The big difference is that the main ingredient of gnocchi is potato while with gnudi, it’s ricotta cheese. Naturally, the lack of potato makes gnudi softer and more delicate. Spinach is often included, but any green works, and I had plenty of Swiss chard in my garden, so I went with that. I threw in some mint and lemon zest to add more freshness.
The dish remains light (at least in texture and density, if not calories) by being served in brown butter that’s tossed with oregano leaves and some lemon juice. At the same time, it can be quite filling with a side of bread and salad, or perhaps some fresh vegetables cooked with a quick sauté, such as peas, asparagus or zucchini.
My nephew and sister joined us to try gnudi for the first time. Thanks to the chard, the gnudi were filled with flecks of green, my nephew’s favorite color. At least that was the pitch my sister attempted to use to get him to eat. It wasn’t until I brought a piece of gnudi to where he was playing hide and seek and told him it was a treat, that he gave it a try. He then came back to the table and ate several more bites. It’s not that I know anything about parenting, it’s just the same tactic that works with my dog.
Yet, when it came time to share a bowl of strawberry rhubarb crisp for dessert, my nephew nearly spit it back into our bowl. Can’t win them all. Though I can’t blame him, I despised rhubarb as a kid.
Whether you call it gnudi or a treat, these little dumplings make for a more interesting alternative to pasta, and it’s a perfect dinner for a summer get together.
Swiss chard gnudi with oregano brown butter
4 ounces Swiss chard or other greens, such as spinach
2 cups ricotta cheese, strained
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cooking water
4 leaves fresh mint
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling
1 ½ sticks butter
3 sprigs oregano, leaves removed and chopped
Remove the bottom stems from the chard and set aside for another use. Rinse the leaves, then add them to a large pan over medium heat. Cook until wilted, then transfer to a sieve and use tongs to squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Wipe out the pan and set aside.
Put the chard in a food processor and process a few times to chop up the leaves. Add the ricotta, Parmesan, nutmeg, egg, salt, mint and lemon zest. Process on high until well blended. With the processor running, slowly add the flour until a dough starts to form. If the dough becomes too thick and the processor stops, transfer to a bowl and stir in the flour with a wooden spoon or just use your hands to mix it in. Stop when you have a thick dough that is no longer sticky but not super firm either, which could either require less than the amount of flour listed or a bit more. This will depend on how much liquid was left in your chard and ricotta.
Dump the dough out onto a floured counter and divide into several smaller pieces. It will be soft, so handle gently. Roll each piece out into a rope about one inch wide. Use a knife to slice the rope into half-inch pieces. Repeat with the remaining dough.
Return the pan to medium-high heat with about two inches of water. Bring to a gentle simmer, then add several pinches of salt. Gently add the small pieces of gnudi dough to the water in batches, doing just enough at a time to not crowd the pan. After two or three minutes, when the pasta starts to float, use a slotted spoon to remove from the water and set aside in a large dish. Repeat with the remaining pasta.
Dump the water from the pan and wipe clean. Return to the stove, set to low heat and add the butter. Allow to melt and slowly cook until the butter bubbles then starts to brown. Raise the heat just a little, if needed. When fragrant and golden brown, turn off the heat, carefully stir in the oregano (the butter may splatter) and the lemon juice.
Pour the butter over the gnudi and serve topped with cheese.