Gnudi: What’s the Hub-Bub, Bub?

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Have you ever heard of something for the very first time one day…. And then all of a sudden, you’re hearing about it all the time as if it’s become an overnight sensation? Well, that’s what happened to me with gnudi.

The very first time I heard of them was about three weeks ago, as I was watching “The Best Thing I Ever Made” on the Food Network, while working in my kitchen. Scott Conant was sharing his recipe for gnudi.

Gnudi? Now that’s a word that I’ve never heard before. I know…I don’t know how that could possibly be, but it’s true. They’re new to me.  They kind of looked like big balls of gnocchi. I made a mental note to Google them later on, so that I could see what they were all about.

While I was researching them, I found that gnudi became popular around 2008, because of a restaurant called The Spotted Pig , in New York City. I’ve never heard of that restaurant either, but it looks wonderful, and when I make it back to the city, I’ll be sure to visit there. The photos make it look so quaint and inviting.

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Ok, back to the gnudi…

Pronunciation (so as not to butcher it as we say it…):
Gnudi: Ny-oodee
Gnocchi: Ny-oakey

Gnudi have been around for centuries, according to Oretta Zanini de Vita in “Encyclopedia of Pasta,” they’ve been around since the late 1200’s. Again, overnight sensation, as they’ve become quite popular in the last couple of years.

The difference between gnudi and gnocchi is the amount of starch used in the recipe. Gnocchi are made from potato and flour, while gnudi are made from ricotta and breadcrumbs. Gnocchi tend to be a little bit dense and chewy, whereas gnudi are fluffy and soft.

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My mom (Marsh) called me last week to tell me about an article in the Buffalo News … it was about…well, what do you know… Gnudi. She read the recipe to me over the phone, and then made a copy of the article for me, and sent it to me. This article contained a couple of variations of gnudi: plain, spinach, and butternut squash. Marsh made the spinach version, and was really disappointed. “I didn’t like them at all, but you make them and see what you think” she said.

According to the article, gnudi are much easier to make than gnocchi.

“We’ll see about that…” I said to myself this morning as I rolled up my sleeves and got to work. I decided to make the butternut squash gnudi.

Well, about 20 minutes later… the gnudi were already in the saucepan, boiling. I admit, they are easier to make. Much faster for sure. They’d probably make a great 30 minute meal for after work, with a butter and sage sauce, or a quick pomodoro sauce.

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But the question is, do I like them better than gnocchi? No.

My reason? Texture. They’re just too fluffy for me. I prefer the chewiness of the gnocci.

Don’t get me wrong; you can really pick up the butternut in them, and with the lemon-sage butter sauce, they were really delicious. I will make them again, especially when I’m pressed for time.

I do think that they would make a great beginning, the first course to a meal, or an appetizer of sorts.

Anyway, I’m really glad I tried them… now I can get in on that hub-bub when they come up during a conversation…

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Butternut Squash Gnudi
Makes 16 gnudi

A quick note:
The recipe suggested that the ricotta and squash be drained for a half hour, so that the gnudi didn’t turn out watery.

It called for ½ cup of fresh breadcrumbs, but to add more if they were too mushy. I tried them with just ½ cup, and test boiled two of them… they broke apart in the water (see photo below). I added another cup of breadcrumbs, and that did the trick.

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It also calls for just ½ cup of parmesan. When a recipe calls for cheese, you can be sure that I’ll be adding more than what it calls for, just because I like it.

The recipe also suggested browning the gnudi in butter before serving them. Brown them in butter? You don’t have to ask me twice…

The Gnudi:
¾ cup whole milk ricotta, drained
½ cup frozen butternut squash, thawed and drained
1 cup parmesan (technically ½ cup)
1 egg yolk
1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (technically ½ cup)
½ tsp salt
dash nutmeg (optional, I didn’t use it)

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and spread a layer of flour over the parchment.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, squash, parmesan, egg yolk, breadcrumbs, salt, and nutmeg until well blended.

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Using either your hands, or a cookie scoop, form balls with the dough, and roll in flour that is on the parchment. Gently shake the flour covered gnudi in your hands so that the flour falls back onto the parchment paper, and the gnudi is left with a thin layer of flour. This will prevent them from sticking. Line them on the baking sheet while you form the remaining gnudi.

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In a large frying pan, melt three tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Remove from heat.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil over high heat, and cook the gnudi in batches. Do not crowd them. Once they float to the surface of the water, boil them for about 2 more minutes. Remove with slotted spoon, and place in the frying pan of butter. Repeat with remaining gnudi.

When all of the gnudi are in the frying pan, turn the heat back on to medium, and fry the gnudi until they’re golden brown.

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Move to a paper towel lined plate.

While the gnudi are browning, begin preparing:

The Lemon-Sage Butter Sauce:
4 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 sage leaves, whole
Juice of ½ lemon
Fresh ground salt and pepper to taste

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Melt the butter in a medium frying pan. Saute the garlic and sage leaves for about two minutes. Add lemon juice, and cook for another minute or so.

Place the gnudi on individual plates, and pour the butter sauce over them. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a sprinkle of grated parmesan.

Enjoy!

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Lemony Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Chestnuts over Gnocchi

Don’t you love it when you’re watching a movie…and you think you have it all figured out until some crazy twist at the end, that you did not see coming, just knocks you right out of your seat?  Yeah, me too…

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I’m still trying to play catch up on the sauces that I made for the gnocchi from last weekend, and this one I have to say is a definite “make again”. I think I may have gone a little starch crazy, but honestly? It worked.

My plan was just to make some roasted Brussels sprouts with baby red potatoes, and bacon. I had just roasted some chestnuts, and was snacking on them while I was cooking the Brussels sprouts and potatoes, when I started in on my last minute ideas… it hit me that the chestnuts might taste good with the Brussels sprouts and potatoes…and…what if I added just enough butter and chicken stock to make it a touch saucy? …and…what if I served it over the gnocchi that I had just made?

I did add some butter and chicken stock, and cooked it on low flame until it thickened. I didn’t add the chestnuts until the last minute; I didn’t want them to lose their texture. I wanted to be able to taste them in the sauce. I quickly cooked up some gnocchi, so that I could do a quick taste test.

Of course, I decided it needed cheese, so I sprinkled ricotta salata (a heavy sprinkle, because I love it) over the Brussels sprouts and gnocchi. I took a taste, and I liked it, but I didn’t get that first “mmmm” factor. The creamy, soft nutty flavor of the cheese really worked well with the Brussels sprouts, potatoes, bacon, and chestnuts, but I wasn’t in love. It’s funny, because I thought I was so creative when I added the chestnuts to the mix.  I truly thought that they were going to be the star of the show…but in all honesty…they really weren’t. They were good. They belonged. But they weren’t the star.

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After another bite or two, it hit me…fresh lemon….and I thought, “Why not?”… I’m so glad I’m open to my own ideas, and not one to reject them immediately…and I’m so glad that I always keep a lemon or two in the fridge… because I have to tell you…

A squeeze of fresh lemon over the entire dish made it shine.
Like the heavens opened up with beams of light and a choir of angels singing…
Ok, maybe I exaggerate. A lot.
But the lemon… I totally did not see that coming. It knocked me right out of my seat.

Don’t forget, I love a million levels of flavor going on in my mouth…and this…what seemed to be a boring little dish…suddenly became exciting!

I can’t even begin to tell you what the lemon did for the potatoes.  They were a little lost in the crowd until the lemon showed up…and then wow, did they show up. Those little starchy chunks of goodness just popped!

The Brussels sprouts with the lemon brought an unbelievable fresh, citrusy, excellence to the dish…the chestnuts with the lemon…so…SO crazy good…and of course the gnocchi with the lemon.. I mean, who doesn’t like lemon with their gnocchi? Not this girl.

Just like the movies… a surprise ending.  You gotta love it..

Life is Good.  Life is Lemony Good.

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Lemony Brussels Sprouts, Potatoes, and Chestnuts over Gnocchi
(Serves 4)

The Sauce
20-25 Brussels sprouts, cleaned and quartered
10-15 baby red potatoes, cleaned and quartered
15 to 20 chestnuts (more than you need, but just in case a couple are no good to eat)
½ pound bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken stock
¼ cup butter
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 lemon, cut into sixths

Prepare the chestnuts per the instructions below.  Eat a couple to make sure they’re properly cooked.  Eat one more…yum….Then roughly chop the rest.  Set aside.

In a large frying pan, cook the bacon until it’s crisp over medium heat.  Drain on a paper towel lined plate, and set aside.  Remove all but two tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pan, and add the onions. Sauté them until they’re golden. Add the garlic and sauté for a couple minutes more. Add the potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and cook them until they’re browned and tender, stirring occasionally.

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Add the chicken stock and butter to the Brussels sprouts and potato mixture, simmer on low heat until it has reduced, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Stir the chestnuts into the Brussels sprouts sauce, and cook until they’re just heated through. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Serve over cooked gnocchi.  Sprinkle with bacon and freshly grated ricotta salata.  Generously squeeze a lemon slice over the whole dish…and Enjoy!

Chestnuts
Preheat oven to 450 degrees

I think the hardest part of roasting a chestnut is slicing into it.  You should really use a sharp knife to slice one side of the chestnut, just deep enough to cut the shell. Make sure you’re cutting it on a board, and not holding the chestnut in your hand!!

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Place the chestnuts on a cookie sheet, and place in the oven.  Bake for about 45 minutes.  Right before you remove them from the oven, dampen a towel under hot water.  Remove the chestnuts from the oven, and immediately wrap in the damp towel for about 15 minutes.  Most of your chestnuts will peel easily.  Don’t get too discouraged if they all don’t peel easily…some of them will take a little bit more work than others, but they’re totally worth it! You will definitely want to eat a few before they go into the sauce…

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Succo with Meatballs and Hard Boiled Eggs

 

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I don’t think that anything makes me happier than when I have a pot of succo (spaghetti sauce) simmering on the stove.  Why do I call it succo?  Because that’s what my family has always called it, pronounced sugoo….  It’s basically Italian for sauce or gravy, and the “oo” part comes from the Sicilian heritage, in which we tend to put “oo” in place of the long “o” at the end of words.  Honestly? I think a lot of the words that my grandmother used were part Sicilian and part English.. at least most of her sentences were a mixture of the two…and she had the most adorable Italian accent.

I have many happy memories of Grandma, many of them based around food, especially her bread…which none of us have ever been able to re-create. I say that, but I do believe that a couple of my aunts are pretty darn close! I’ll never forget the orange slices (candy) in her cupboard that she would always share with me…and now I have to have them in my own cupboard today! Grandma also made her own ricotta salata…and while I buy it from my beloved Wegmans, theirs doesn’t hold a candle to hers. …And Grandma’s sauce… what a special treat to be at her house when she had a pot simmering on her stove. I can tell you, that’s where I came to love egg..and peas..in my succo…

…And since I’m talking about my grandmother, here is a quick story of how my name came to be…

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Grandma Bucolo came to America from Sicily when she was in her teens. It absolutely amazes me that these young kids came over here to make a life for themselves, when at that age, I couldn’t imagine getting on a ship and traveling to another country by myself, or even letting my own kids go when they were that age.  No way.  This young, beautiful, and courageous girl named Providencia Amato (pictured here) did just that.

Now, I’m not exactly sure of how her name was changed, whether it was at Ellis Island and the clerk working that day couldn’t spell her name, and gave her a new name… or if Grandma voluntarily changed her name. Maybe it was a little of both, but on that day of arrival at Ellis Island, Providencia became Prudence.  She loved her new name, and three of her granddaughters, including myself, were named after her.

Whether this is true or not, there is the story that when people started to call her Prudy, my grandmother thought that they were calling her “Pretty”, and of course, that made her very happy!  I love that…and regardless if that little story is true or not, “Pretty” truly fits.  She was a beautiful lady, and I loved her so, so much. I’m honored to carry her name.

So.. when I have a pot of succo simmering on the stove, you can be sure that I’m thinking of my Grandma Bucolo.
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Succo with Meatballs and Hardboiled Eggs

This very simple sauce recipe is small batch with meatballs, and eggs.  I prepared it the other day to go with the gnocchi that I made, and when you’re eating gnocchi you don’t need a ton of extras.  You really want to savor the star of the show, which is the gnocchi. One of these days I’ll do a full pot of succo and share it with you (pork, sausage, eggs, meatballs..etc.).

1 pound pork, veal, beef mixture (if you prefer, only ground beef is just fine)
1 egg
½ cup Romano cheese
2 slices bread,  wet down with water, squeezed until the liquid is gone, broken into pieces
1 tbsp parsley
½ small onion, minced (around two tablespoons)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4  tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
2 tbsp olive oil

5 whole hard-boiled eggs, shells removed

2-28 oz cans tomato sauce
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp sugar
salt to taste

Freshly grated Ricotta Salata

In a large bowl, mix the pork mixture, egg, Romano cheese, bread, parsley, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper until just blended. Do not overmix.   Roll into five medium size meatballs.  Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the meatballs to the heated oil, and fry until browned. They don’t have to be fully cooked at this point, they’ll finish cooking in the sauce.  Move the meatballs to a plate, and set aside.
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To the same pan, add the onions, sauté until golden. Add the garlic, and sauté for a few minutes more. Add the sauce to the pan, along with the sugar. Add the meatballs and eggs to the sauce.  Bring the sauce to a boil, and reduce the heat to low.  Stirring the sauce occasionally, simmer for two to three hours, or until it has reduced and thickened to your preference.  Add salt if you think it’s necessary.  If it cooks down too much, you can always add some of the gnocchi or pasta water to the sauce afterward.
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Serve on gnocchi, or your favorite pasta, sprinkle generously with ricotta salata.  I easily served five people very generous portions, one meatball, and one egg each.  You can double this recipe, and freeze the extra… I don’t freeze the eggs, only because I don’t care for their texture after they’ve been frozen.

Enjoy!
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