Diana Henry Recipe: Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi

Telegraph food writer and James Beard award-winning cookbook author Diana Henry has published her new cookbook How to Eat a Peach celebrating menus, stories and places. She cooks up feasts for family and friends based on meals she has cooked and loved over the years. ‘Tender little dumplings, as fragile as a pasta filling, which is how they got their name: gnudi is Tuscan dialect for ‘naked’ (and Michelangelo’s paintings of nude figures in the Sistine Chapel were referred to as ignudi)’, says Diana. ‘I adore these. They take a bit of time to make, but I love the process; you need a light touch, as forming them is like handling flowers. I am sometimes tempted to complicate gnudi – adding strips of Parma ham, lightly cooked broad beans or peas (and all of these are fine additions) – but they’re best unadorned, served with nothing more than melted butter.’

Serves 6

Ingredients

250g (9oz) ricotta, preferably fresh rather than UHT
470g (1lb 1oz) spinach, coarse stalks removed
30g (1oz) unsalted butter, plus
50g (1¾oz) to serve
¼ small onion, very finely chopped
2 egg yolks
100g (3½oz) finely grated
Parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
Freshly grated nutmeg
30g (1oz) plain flour, plus more to dust
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

1. Put the ricotta in a sieve lined with muslin or a brand new J-cloth and leave for a couple of hours to let the excess moisture drain away.

2. Wash the spinach and put it in a large pan with the water that’s left clinging to the leaves. Cover and set over a medium heat to wilt for 5–6 minutes, turning the leaves halfway through. Tip into a colander and leave to cool, then squeeze out every bit of moisture either with your fists or by putting the spinach – in batches – between 2 dinner plates and pressing them together. Chop the spinach finely.

3. Melt the 30g (1oz) of butter and gently sauté the onion until soft but not coloured. Add the spinach and stir it round; more moisture should evaporate in the heat of the pan. Scrape the spinach into a bowl and allow to cool, then mix in the ricotta, egg yolks, Parmesan, nutmeg, flour and seasoning. Taste a bit of the raw mixture for seasoning.

4. Sprinkle a dusting of flour on to a large baking tray. Using wet hands (these work better than floured hands), roll the mixture into nuggets, a bit bigger than a marble but smaller than a walnut, then roll each gently in the flour to coat lightly. Put on a plate, cover with cling film and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day, to firm them up (the chilling here is vital).

5. Put a really big saucepan of lightly salted water on to boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Melt the 50g (1¾oz) butter in a large frying pan or sauté pan, then take it off the heat. Cook the gnudi in batches by dropping them into the water. After a couple of minutes they should have bobbed to the surface, so lift them out with a slotted spoon and drop them into the butter. Shake around a little and cover the pan. When all the gnudi are cooked, gently heat them through in the butter.

6. Serve in warmed dishes, sprinkling with a little more Parmesan and grinding on some black pepper.

This Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi recipe is part of a larger menu that Diana created in her book How to Eat a Peach – links for the other recipes are below:

Elderflower Gin and Tonic
Leg of Lamb Stuffed with Lemon and Many Herbs
Sarassou
Broad Beans with Lettuce, Shallots and Mint
Pink Grapefruit and Basil Ice Cream

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