Diane Rossen Worthington

Ravioli Gnudi (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings) Recipe
Ravioli Gnudi (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

Do you ever find yourself wanting the taste of a pasta dish but not the bulk? Poached spinach-ricotta balls might be just what you're looking for. They are the "nude" ravioli -- the stuffing without the pasta -- sauced with your favorite tomato sauce. You can also serve these nuggets with melted butter and fresh sage.

I have been making these fluffy, light vegetable balls for many years. I really like author Pamela Sheldon John's recipe because it is very easy to put together. She calls for using spoons instead of hands to form the mixture into little quenelle-shaped dumplings, which is much less messy. Freshly grating the nutmeg and cheese really adds an important flavor dimension.

It is worth it to start with fresh spinach, cook it, and then chop it. If you are in a hurry, you can try the defrosted chopped spinach, making sure to wring out all excess water so the dumplings will stay together when they are poached in the boiling water.

Feel free to use your favorite tomato sauce or to try my California-style version of the classic marinara sauce that includes both canned and sun-dried tomatoes for extra-rich flavor. This thick home-style sauce is equally good on pasta, pizza, meatballs or eggs. I always think it's worth it to make a large amount and have leftover sauce stored in the freezer for future meals.

You can serve these "nude" ravioli as a first course or as a side dish with simple grilled foods. It also makes a light vegetarian luncheon dish.

Ravioli Gnudi (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

Serves 6.

3/4 cup steamed spinach, finely chopped

3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup grated pecorino or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

2 large egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

3 cups favorite tomato sauce or recipe below

Extra Parmesan cheese, for garnish

1. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, pecorino and egg yolks. Stir to blend. Stir in the nutmeg and salt to taste, then gently stir in the flour, mixing just enough to pull the mixture together.

2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Heat the tomato sauce, and spread a thin layer of it over the bottom of a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.

3. Using two tablespoons, shape and compact the ricotta mixture into ovals and drop them directly into the boiling water in batches, so as not to crowd the pot. They will float to the top when done, after 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the gnudi to the casserole dish. Keep warm in a low oven. Repeat to cook all the remaining gnudi. Spoon the remaining tomato sauce over the gnudi, garnish with Parmesan and serve at once.

Diane's Double-Tomato Herb Sauce

Makes about 2 quarts.

One 3-ounce package dry-packed sun-dried tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped

1 celery rib, finely chopped

1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1 (14-ounce) can tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup full-bodied red wine like Chianti or Merlot

2 cups water

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil or 2 tablespoons dried

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Place the sun-dried tomatoes in a small mixing bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let them steep for 5 minutes. Drain the softened tomatoes and reserve.

2. Heat the oil in a large nonaluminum pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot and celery, and cook until soft, stirring frequently to prevent burning, about 10 minutes. Add both the canned tomatoes and the softened sun-dried tomatoes, the garlic, wine, water and herbs. Partially cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper.

3. Puree the mixture in the pot with a hand blender or in a food processor fitted with the metal blade until the sauce is a fine puree with no large pieces of tomato. You may need to add more water for a sauce-like consistency since the sun-dried tomatoes provide extra thickness. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and pepper and herbs it desired. Serve hot.

Advance Preparation

The sauce can be prepared up to five days in advance, covered, and refrigerated. It also can be frozen in small containers for up to two months.

Ravioli, Dumplings, Italian


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Ravioli Gnudi (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

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