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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