Ravioli nudi

Ravioli nudi (Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

In gnocchi, Lombardia, primi piatti, Toscana by Frank30 Comments

Ravioli nudi, or “nude ravioli”, also known as gnudi, malfatti, gnocchi verdi, or the more literal gnocchi di ricotta e spinaci—are dumplings made with the usual spinach and ricotta filling for regular ravioli without their usual pasta “clothing”. Often thought of as a speciality of Tuscany—they are also sometimes called strozzapreti toscani—they are traditional in Lombardy as well, and popular all over Italy.

Ravioli nudi are really quite easy to make, with two little complications you’ll need to navigate: First, then spinach and ricotta mixture is quite sticky, so it can be a bit tricky to work with. Here, a liberal coating of flour on your work surface and your hands will help. And second, the delicate mixture is apt to fall apart if you’re not careful to bind it well. Eggs usually do the job and, although not all recipes call for it, I add a bit of flour, too. But don’t overdo the flour or your dumplings will lose their characteristic lightness. In this connection, make sure that both main ingredients, ricotta and greens, are well drained of excess liquid before they go into the mixing bowl; that’ll avoid the need for too much flour. It’s also a good idea to cook one test dumpling to see if the mixture holds together—if not, add a bit more.

Ingredients

Serves 4-6

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) spinach or Swiss chard
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) ricotta cheese, well drained if needed
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • A heaping spoonful of flour, or more if needed
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Trim the stems off the spinach or Swiss chard and rinse the leaves well to remove any grit. Drop the leaves in boiling, salted water and remove just as soon as they have wilted, usually by the time the water comes back to the boil. Drain the leaves well, rinse off with cold water and squeeze them dry with your hands. Chop the leaves finely.

In sauté pan or skillet, gently sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil. When the cloves are lightly browned, remove them and add the chopped greens and let them simmer together, just for a few minutes so the greens absorb the flavor of seasoned oil, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer the sautéed greens to a mixing bowl and let them cool.

Add the ricotta, grated Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutmeg to the bowl and mix everything together quite well. Add a heaping spoonful of flour and mix again. Taste for seasoning and, if it needs it, add a bit more salt. The mixture should be quite moist but hold together. If not, you can add another spoonful or two of flour.

Take a heaping spoonful of the mixture and, with well-floured hands, form it into a dumpling, which can be perfectly round, a bit flattened or in lozenges, as you prefer. Roll the dumpling in flour to cover and set it out on a well-floured baking sheet. Repeat until you’ve used up the mixture.

Poach your ravioli nudi in simmering salted water, draining them well with a skimmer when they come to the surface of the water. (The water should not be at a full boil, or they may well break apart.)

Serve your ravioli nudi right away, with the sauce of your choice (see Notes).

Ravioli nudi

Notes on Ravioli nudi

Ravioli nudi are quite tasty, and a simple dressing of melted butter, perhaps scented with sage, complements their flavor very well. You melt the butter in a small skillet and add a few fresh sage leaves to sauté very gently for a few moments, then turn off the heat and let the sage steep in the butter until you’re ready to serve. But a basic tomato sauce, as pictured here, makes an equally delicious combination. In either case, a topping of grated Parmesan is never amiss. I’ve also seen recipes for ravioli nudi covered in béchamel and gratinéed in the oven, which I’m sure is quite good, if a bit on the heavy side.

Ravioli nudi are invariably made with spinach or Swiss chard, ricotta, Parmesan cheese and eggs, and sometimes flour, but the measurements tend to vary wildly from recipe to recipe. The ratio of greens to ricotta is typically a bit more than the 1:1 ratio given here for the sake of simplicity; I’ve seen recipes that call for as high a ratio as 2:1. The amount of Parmesan can be as much as double or as little as half the 100 grams given here. The number of eggs varies, too, with recipes calling for as few as just one to as many as five for this quantity of greens and ricotta. As for the flour, I like to add just a few spoonfuls, but I’ve seen recipes that call for as much as 100 grams for this quantity of dumplings. It’s all a matter of taste, so feel free to experiment!

In some recipes, the garlic is replaced by some chopped onion, which is sautéed in the olive oil until translucent and soft. Other recipes omit this step altogether, and have you add the chopped greens directly to the bowl. Personally, I think that the soffritto add a pleasant extra layer of flavor.

Commercially made ricotta cheese can be quite runny or quite dry, depending on the brand. For this recipe, you want your ricotta to be quite dry, or you’ll need far too much flour to make a workable mixture. As mentioned above, it’s a good idea to drain the ricotta in a colander if you notice any excess liquid in the container. (Actually, this would be a fine recipe for using homemade “ricotta”—really a ricotta-like fresh cheese—something we will feature in a future post.)

I’ve read that you can form the ravioli nudi ahead of time and freeze them until you’re ready to cook them. I’ve not tried it, however, and, frankly, they’re quick enough to make that I’m not sure it’s really worth it. The mixture can, of course, be made a bit ahead and refrigerated until you’re ready to form the dumplings and cook them. A stay in the fridge might actually make them easier to handle. You can also form the dumplings a bit ahead as well, although they do tend to stick to any surface they’re on, so be sure to flour it very well. Finally, per Arthur Schwartz, you can also cook your ravioli nudi ahead and warm them in a moderate oven (180C/350F) drizzled with melted butter for 10-15 minutes.

Ravioli nudi (Florentine Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: Serves 4-6

Ravioli nudi (Florentine Spinach and Ricotta Dumplings)

Ingredients

  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) spinach or Swiss chard
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
  • Olive oil
  • 1 kilo (2 lbs) ricotta cheese, well drained if needed
  • 100g (3-1/2 oz) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs
  • A heaping spoonful of flour, or more if needed
  • A pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Trim the stems off the spinach or Swiss chard and rinse the leaves well to remove any grit. Drop the leaves in boiling, salted water and remove just as soon as they have wilted, usually by the time the water comes back to the boil. Drain the leaves well, rinse off with cold water and squeeze them dry with your hands. Chop the leaves finely.
  2. In sauté pan or skillet, gently sauté the garlic cloves in olive oil. When the cloves are lightly browned, remove them and add the chopped greens and let them simmer together, just for a few minutes so the greens absorb the flavor of seasoned oil, seasoning with salt and pepper as you go. Transfer the sautéed greens to a mixing bowl and let them cool.
  3. Add the ricotta, grated Parmesan cheese, eggs and nutmeg to the bowl and mix everything together quite well. Add a heaping spoonful of flour and mix again. Taste for seasoning and, if it needs it, add a bit more salt. The mixture should be quite moist but hold together. If not, you can add another spoonful or two of flour.
  4. Take a heaping spoonful of the mixture and, with well-floured hands, form it into a dumpling, which can be perfectly round, a bit flattened or in lozenges, as you prefer. Roll the dumpling in flour to cover and set it out on a well-floured baking sheet. Repeat until you've used up the mixture.
  5. Poach your ravioli nudi in simmering salted water, draining them well with a skimmer when they come to the surface of the water. (The water should not be at a full boil, or they may well break apart.)
  6. Serve your ravioli nudi right away, with the sauce of your choice (see Notes).

Notes

Ravioli nudi are quite tasty, and a simple dressing of melted butter, perhaps scented with sage, complements their flavor very well. You melt the butter in a small skillet and add a few fresh sage leaves to sauté very gently for a few moments, then turn off the heat and let the sage steep in the butter until you're ready to serve. But a basic tomato sauce, as pictured here, makes an equally delicious combination. In either case, a topping of grated Parmesan is never amiss. I've also seen recipes for ravioli nudi covered in béchamel and gratinéed in the oven, which I'm sure is quite good, if a bit on the heavy side.

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Comments

  1. Yum, yum! Love Gnudi! They are so light! Have you ever tried making them with stinging nettles? I have and they are darned delicious too! Too bad we don’t live in the same city…we could do cook together!

  2. Made these and served them with a simple tomato sauce just like your picture! They were excellent and a great choice for a friend on a low-carb diet I used a package of frozen spinach to 1 lb of ricotta. Will definitely make again!

  3. Believe it or not, I’ve never had gnudi in Italy. My mother made mostly ravioli di carne e rarely di magro and I make gnocchi di ricotta, for which I drain the ricotta at least one day, wrapped in a cotton napkin. Mouthwatering photos, as always 🙂

  4. Great suggestions Frank, to drain the ricotta and squeeze all the water from the greens. These can be deadly heavy if too much flour is added. I like these with all kinds of sauces, including a red pepper pureé.

  5. This is so timely. I am toying with extra ricotta and what to do with it. I saw something where you keep the dumplings in the fridge for several days coated with semolina. The problem is – I don’t have several days right now to play with it – so this is perfect.

  6. mi piace qualsiasi ricetta con la ricotta, sia dolce che salata.Conosco questo primo piatto e mi hai messo una “voglia matta” di riproporlo in tavola ! Buona settimana Frank

  7. Thank you for this recipe! I’ve never heard of this dish, but I can imagine that it would be a delicious combination. Lighter because of the missing pasta, and quicker and easier … and even though fresh pasta is delicious, this is a nice change-up. I love your suggested variations. I happen to have some leftover white sauce in the fridge that would probably go perfectly with a few of these!

  8. These look so yummy! I made something similar recently without the spinach. Just ricotta, parmigiano, egg and a small amount of flour. I made the ‘ricotta’ too and they were good. I think spinach would have made them better though. Buon appetito, Cristina

    1. Author

      Both kinds are equally delicious, if you ask me. Just depends on the mood I’m in… Thanks for stopping by, Cristina!

  9. Draining the ricotta and holding back on the flour are the type of suggestions that allow the reader to be successful with the recipe. As always Frank, I so enjoy your posts.

    1. Author

      Thanks, Paula! I do try to be as descriptive and helpful to readers as I can with these posts. Some bloggers like to personalize recipes with descriptions of their daily life, I focus on the actual cooking.

  10. I love these! I have a version on my site from Silvia Colloca (Silvia’s Cucina.) They don’t have any greens, just ricotta and they’re so good, but I’d love to try your version now.

    1. Author

      I’m a big fan of Silvia’s, too. Ditto for ricotta gnocchi. Equally delicious with or without spinach, if you ask me.

  11. I wonder if something could be substituted for wheat flour; when I saw this dish I wanted to make it for a friend who has gluten intolerance.

    It looks delicious.

    1. Author

      I’ve never tried it, but I have to think that rice flour would work just as well as wheat flour. And, as mentioned, you can make these dumplings without any flour at all, in which case I’d add another egg or two, plus more Parmesan to make a workable dough.

  12. I can hardly swallow my mouth is watering so much! Your gnocchi look delicious and I haven’t made these in a very long time. That is on the roster next week. Great photos, Frank!!

  13. when I now make similar fragile gnocchi/dumplings ecc… I “half adopt” the april bloomfield’s trick of drying them out in the fridge, well coated with semola flour…not as long as she says for her ricotta gnudi, sort of.. few hrs.. they become sturdier
    + I prefer to just wilt the spinach in the water that clings to them after washing and I then dry them further by sautéing them in a little butter.
    stefano
    ps this is the april bloomfield’s ricotta gnudi revisited by the serious eats guys: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/04/spotted-pig-ricotta-gnudi-food-lab.html

    1. Author

      I love J. Kenji Lopez-Alt (for his name alone…!) Seriously, though, he really does know his stuff. Some time in the fridge does sound like good insurance, but 8 hours? I’d never have that much patience…

  14. Brings back wonderful memories of Salerno, which is where I first ate these. I also fondly remember seeing Biba Caggiano cook them on her show. I agree that a little bit of flour is called for.

  15. Properly speaking a kilo is 2.2 lbs but if both your main ingredients are 10% out in the same direction it shouldn’t make any difference.

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