Gnudi is a typical pasta dish of Tuscany, particularly of Siena and Grosseto. Gnudi, similar to potato gnocchi, are dumplings made of ricotta cheese and spinach. These dumplings are called gnudi because they do not have any pastry that covers their filling. In Tuscany, the term gnudo is used to indicate something naked, or bare.
Like many traditional recipes, the gnudi recipe is part of the peasant tradition, and it has been handed down over the years from family to family and each family has its own. It is rare to find gnudi for sale because they are difficult to store easily.
The traditional recipe of gnudi requires the use of butter, but if you prefer a lighter version, you can replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil.
There are a couple of ways to cook gnudi, depending on how you prefer them and which sauce you want to serve this pasta dish. Let’s explore a couple.
After the gnudi are cooked, they are tossed and stir fried in a large pan in a butter and sage sauce for a couple of minutes to transfer the flavor of the sauce to the gnudi.
Gnudi pasta can also be baked, and as mentioned previously, they can be made without the use of butter. The latter is certainly lighter and suitable for vegans, while the former is more appetizing because they are baked au gratin. After boiling them and carefully removing any dripping water then place the gnudi in a baking pan, top with abundant Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and butter. Broil in the oven at high for a few minutes until the cheese and the butter melts and turn brown. Let them rest for a couple of minutes before serving them.
For a spicier flavor, one can add some thyme, marjoram, or bay leaf. Additionally, if you like the spicy flavor, you can sauté the spinach with fresh or ground chili.
Since it’s a type of pasta that is difficult to store if fresh, gnudi are usually eaten the same day as they are made. You can prepare them in the morning and consume them for lunch, or if you prepare them in the afternoon, you can have them in the evening. You can freeze gnudi provided that you store them in an airtight freezer container for up to 1 month.
There is another type of pasta that is similar to gnudi, and it’s called Malfatti. In Italian Malfatti means badly done and in fact it refers to a type of pasta from Lombardy that does not have an precise shape, hence the name. Malfatti is a sort of dumpling very popular in Lombardy, especially around Brescia, made with ricotta cheese, spinach and eggs but breadcrumbs is used instead of flour.