Ndunderi di Minori (Ricotta Gnocchi)

FrankCampania, gnocchi, primi piatti30 Comments

Ndunderi (Ricotta Gnocchi)

This week’s recipe comes to us from the town of Minori on the the Amalfi Coast. Ndunderi, a kind of ricotta gnocchi, are traditionally served on the three feast days dedicated to Minori’s patron saint Trofimena: November 5, November 27 and her main feast day on July 13. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying them any time you’re in the mood for this delicious treat…

You make ndunderi much as you would gnocchi made from potatoes, but since you needn’t boil and mash the potatoes, they process is rather simpler. You make a soft dough from ricotta, eggs, grated cheese and flour, then form the dough into gnocchi in the usual way but a bit larger. The cheeses make them even tastier than potato gnocchi. And rather lighter on the palate and stomach, too, despite their larger size. It seems odd to me that they haven’t gained the popularity that their starchier cousins enjoy.

Ndunderi are classically paired with a sugo di salsiccia, a kind of meat sauce made with sausage rather than ground beef or pork, in which case they are practically a meal in themselves. But they are also lovely with a meatless tomato sauce, melted butter scented with lemon, or indeed any other sauce you might use on potato gnocchi.

Ingredients

Serves 3-4

  • 250g (1/2 lb) ricotta, well drained
  • 50g (2 oz) grated parmigiano-reggiano (or caciocavallo if you can find it)
  • 2 eggs
  • salt
  • nutmeg
  • 200g (7 oz) white flour, preferably of the “OO” variety, or as much as you need

Directions

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs and grated cheese, together with a good pinch of salt and a scrape of nutmeg, until you have a uniform paste. Add the flour bit by bit until you get a soft but not sticky dough. Knead very briefly on a well floured surface to form a ball. Cover in plastic wrap, then a towel, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.

Cut the ball in halves or quarters, then roll out into thick logs, then cut the logs into lengths. (Each ndundero should weigh about 20-35g.)

Now press each length with your finger against the prongs of a fork, the side of cheese grater or, if you have one, a gnocchi board to form ridges on one side of each ndundero and a deep dimple on the other, like this:

Ndunderi

Repeat until you’ve used up all the dough. Lay out the ndunderi on a well floured tray or board until you want to cook them.

Simmer the ndunderi in well salted water for 5 minutes or so. They will rise to the surface as the cook, then let them go for another minute or two more. Taste one if need be to test if their done to your liking.

Using a skimmer, transfer them to a serving plate. Nap with your sauce of choice and serve right away, with additional grated cheese for those who like it.

Ndunderi

Notes

As with so many traditional dishes, measurements vary from recipe to recipe. Some call for more grated cheese (which, by the way, traditionally is hard-to-find caciocavallo rather than parmigiano-reggiano). Others call for more or less ricotta or more or less flour. Actually, it’s hard to give a hard and fast rule. As suggested in the main recipe, I’d start with a mixture of ricotta, egg and grated cheese, then add as much flour as you need to form a soft but not at all sticky dough. This is a perfect example of the Italian concept of quanto basta I discussed in this recent post—just use as much as you need.

The size of ndunderi can also vary. Recipes generally say each ndundero should weigh anywhere between 20 and 35 grams, which results in a dumpling quite a bit larger than your typical potato gnocchi. So make sure not to skip that ridging and dimpling of each ndundero, it’s extra important here. And you’ll need to cook them a longer than potato gnocchi, as indicated somewhere around 5 minutes.

Speaking of flour, although you will find recipes that call for semola rimacinata—the finely ground semolina flour used for making dry factory pasta and many southern Italian homemade pastas—I find it makes dunderi rather too chewy for my tastes. I’d opt for “OO” flour, the finely ground white flour you use for making egg pasta and pizza dough. It produces a particularly pleasant ndunderi. But in a pinch, plain old all-purpose will also work just fine, too.

Sauces

To make the classic ragù di salsiccia to go with your ndunderi, sauté a half yellow onion in abundant olive oil until soft, then add a link (or two) of sweet Italian sausage. When the sausage has lost its raw appearance, pour in a glug of wine (either red or white will do equally well) and let it evaporate. Then add tomato passata and let everything simmer gently for a good hour or even two, until you have a richly flavored and dense sauce.

If you’d like a meatless dish, a simple tomato sauce such as a pummarola would work very nicely. In fact, ndunderi go well with just about any sauce that you might think to use with potato gnocchi. Since they are quite flavorful on their own, they’re perfectly delicious with simple dressings, such as butter and sage topped with grated parmigiano-reggiano. A popular sauce for ndunderi—making use of the marvelous local lemons—is simply melted butter to you add some grated lemon zest and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

Interestingly, according to the Accademia Italiana di Cucina, the Piemontese make small gnocchetti di ricotta with a very similar dough and serve them with a mushroom sauce.

Variations

Measurements aside, the main ingredients for making ndunderi are remarkably consistent from recipe to recipe. But there are a few subtle variations out there. Some recipes recommend adding grated lemon zest, which sounds like a nice touch if you’re serving them in the summer. La Cucina Italiana suggests using egg yolks rather than whole eggs, and a few minced basil leaves as well.

Another common variation is to gratinée your ndunderi. After boiling, you layer them in a baking dish alternating with sauce and topped with cheese, typically smoked scamorza. If you can’t find scamorza, I’d suggest another meltable cheese such as smoked mozzarella.

The story of Saint Trofimena

The basilica of the town of Minori has conserved the relics of Trofimena for over 1000 years. According to legend, she lived in Sicily in the 7th century, where she met death after refusing an arranged marriage. Her body was hidden in an urn and cast into the sea. The urn eventurally washed up on the shore at Minori. The locals discovered the urn and brought her into town on a pair of white calves. At a certain point, the calves stopped and refused to move. The town folk took this as divine intervention and decided to build a church on the very spot where the calves ended their journey.

And so Trofimena became inextricably tied to the town of Minori. There they celebrate her on three different days each year. Her main feast day is July 13, the day she is said to have summoned up a storm to ward off pirates. She is also honored on November 5, the day her remains washed up on Minori’s shores. And also on November 27, the day her reliquary urn, which had been “mislaid” during a remodeling of the basilica, was rediscovered in the 18th century.

The practice of making gnocchi from flour and fresh cheese, however, goes back even further in time than Trofimena’s time. Some food historians maintain that a form of ndunderi date back to the ancient Romans. I haven’t been able to discover precisely how ndunderi came to be associated with Trofimena. Perhaps some kind reader with local knowledge can help us out?

Ndunderi di Minori

Ricotta gnocchi from the Amalfi Coast
Total Time30 mins
Course: Primo
Cuisine: Campania
Keyword: gnocchi
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 250g 1/2 lb ricotta, well drained
  • 50g 2 oz grated parmigiano-reggiano or caciocavallo if you can find it
  • 2 eggs
  • salt
  • nutmeg
  • 200g 7 oz white flour, preferably of the "OO" variety or as much as you need

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together the ricotta, eggs and grated cheese, together with a good pinch of salt and a scrape of nutmeg, until you have a uniform paste. Add the flour bit by bit until you get a soft but not sticky dough. Knead very briefly on a well floured surface to form a ball. Cover in plastic wrap, then a towel, and let rest for at least 30 minutes.
  • Cut the ball in halves or quarters, then roll out into thick logs, then cut the logs into lengths. (Each ndundero should weigh about 20-35g.)
  • Now press each length with your finger against the prongs of a fork, the side of cheese grater or, if you have one, a gnocchi board to form ridges on one side of each ndundero and a deep dimple on the other.
  • Repeat until you've used up all the dough. Lay out the ndunderi on a well floured tray or board until you want to cook them. 
  • Simmer the ndunderi in well salted water 5 minutes or so. When they rise to the surface of the water let them go for a minute or two more, until done to your liking.
  • Using a skimmer, transfer them to a serving plate. Nap with your sauce of choice and serve right away, with additional grated cheese for those who like it. 

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30 Comments on “Ndunderi di Minori (Ricotta Gnocchi)”

  1. This sounds and looks so good! I’m wondering . . . do you think this would work with a 1 to 1 gluten-free AP flour? I know that takes away from the authenticity, but I’d love to try it and one of my sons has Celiac so can’t have wheat. Thoughts? 🙂 ~Valentina

    1. I have to admit, I’ve never worked with gluten free flour, but I don’t see why if it’s meant to be AP, you couldn’t use if here. Worth a try, anyway! 🙂

  2. Love these. I researched these few years ago and after few trials I went for more cheese and less flour (and yolks only). I was actually thinking or trying them again (for a cooking class), making them a little less cheesy. I really appreciate how simple they are and they work also with mediocre ricotta

    1. Yes, when David (Cocoa and Lavender) mentioned your post, I went back and found your recipe, which I have to confess I’d completely forgotten about… Anyway, I may try your recipe next to see how it compares. I was intrigued at how little flour it called for, which I take it results in a lighter ndundero. Probably wouldn’t mind the cheesiness!

  3. Well this sounds like it’s going to be a favorite here in our house – just like so many of your recipes, Frank! I’m curious, though. What’s the difference between ndunderi and gnudi? Is it size? I’m looking forward to trying this recipe soon. And I do like your “glug of wine” measurement. 🙂 I might have to have a second glug of wine in a glass while I’m cooking!

    1. Thanks so much, David! Gnudi, which I posted on here, despite also being made with ricotta, are quite different is taste and texture. The biggest difference is they’re usually made with spinach mixed in. But also they’re much more delicate, as you use only a spoonful or two of flour. Ndunderi should be tender but they definitely taste and mouth feel more like pasta.

      And yes, that second glug of wine is the cook’s prerogative! 😉

  4. Dear Frank, just bought a manual cavatelli Maker from Amazon, very cheap and wonderful machine. I have sent one to y son in England and my grand children are having a good time to operate it. Thank you very much for this lovely recipe, will indeed make it soon. God Bless and welcome back. Vittorio.

    1. Thanks so much, Vittorio! One of these days I’m going to invest in one of those machines.They sound both useful and fun.

  5. Definitely making these. Thinking of a simple tomato sauce with a grating of lemon rind.

  6. You had me with the first recipe …and then you mentioned horse cheese, followed by ndunderi gratinée! They sound so delicious I will have to try all three!

  7. I love making these — learned from Stefano. But I’m thrilled to have your recipe for the traditional sauce, as I’ve only made a simple tomato-basil sauce. And someday — probably when in Italy — I want to try these with the caciocavallo. Happy St. Trofimena Day!

    1. I missed Stefano’s post on these. I’ll have to check it out! Btw, another reader wrote in to let us know that you can get caciocavallo on igourmet.com… And at a pretty fair price, too.

  8. I’m so glad you had a great vacation! This is a fabulous recipe – I love the rustic nature of these larger gnocchi! And such good information! I just found out I’m 80.3% Italian. It keeps going up on 23 and me. I guess as they get more information from people and their DNA.

  9. Grazie per le belle ricette. Avevo bisogno di una ricetta di gnocchi a basso contenuto di carboidrati. Usero’ king Arthur keto flour e non vedo l’ora di farli. Congratulazioni per il suo blog e per i bei racconti che include sulle nascite di cibi originali dall’ Italia. Buon Thanksgiving a lei e family.

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