Monday, March 1, 2010

CSA week 13 - Spinach gnudi in sage brown butter

For those who aren't familiar with this trendy Italian dish, gnudi and basically balls of ravioli filling. They're supposed to be light and fluffy and it's a serious challenge to get them to hold together while you're boiling them. That's why, most of the time, they're encased in pasta.

I considered trying to make ravioli, but I can't even make the pasta come out of my pasta machine in tidy evenly wide sheets. There's a whole set of challenges there I don't feel like dealing with on a weeknight. Plus I'd have to invest in a ravioli cutter which I can't imagine using very often.

The lasagne idea was still an option, but I couldn't find a recipe interesting enough to post about and since my komatsuna plans are a bit lame too, this had to be the bigger deal of the week.

I found pretty wide range of recipes for spinach gnudi. Well, they all had more or less the same ingredients, but the ratios varied quite a bit and the methodologies for most seemed sloppy, leaving out important steps. I incorporated all the tricks I could find to ensure success. I haven't actually made them yet so we'll so how well that goes.

1 pound spinach, cleaned and washed
8 ounces ricotta
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan
2 eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper

I started by blanching the spinach, rinsing it in cold water to stop the cooking, draining and then squeezing out the excess water.

I also squeezed some water out of the ricotta. One of the recipes I found said that American ricottas are looser than proper Italian varieties. That's one issue that can cause integrity problems in the gnudi.

After I pulsed the spinach in the food processor a few times to chop it up finely, I mixed all the ingredients and left it in the refrigerator for a while to let the breadcrumbs absorb some moisture and for everything to firm up a bit.

After an hour I took the dough out, lightly formed it into balls and rolled them in flour. The flour is supposed to form a gelatinous enclosure in the simmering water. I could see that working.

Finally, I simmered them gently without stirring for about three minutes, until they rose to the surface of the water. Here's the first batch:

Three out of four held together; That's not too bad.

The sauce is just sage and pancetta browned in butter. Nothing fancy, but a nice complement. The dumplings are light and fluffy with bright spinach flavor over a creamy base. Very nice with the herbal notes and little crispy bits from the sauce.

The second batch was less successful, but not as bad as it looks. They didn't really fall apart; they just split open. I wish I had realized that earlier before I started doctoring up the rest of the dough. Then I wouldn't have added a full half cup of flour.

Here's the first test dumpling from the recipe:

Well, it certainly held together better but the dense texture isn't nearly as nice. Plus the flavors have been dulled. OK, I'm adding a couple Tablespoons of ricotta to lighten it up and more salt and pepper to bring out the flavors. Let's try this again:

OK, that's substantially improved. It's doughy and hearty, but not nearly as heavy. Still got a bit of raw flour flavor, though. I think these would be better fried than boiled. I'll try that tomorrow and let you know how it goes.

Still, the first gnudi were the best. Now that I think about it, the problem was that I didn't flour the sheet I stored them on; A bit of the mixture stuck to the sheet leaving a small gap in the flour coating, an Achilles heel where the insides could leak out. All that extra messing about wasn't necessary at all.

Ah well, I'm sure deep-fried spinach and ricotta dumplings will have their own charm, too.

1 comment:

kat said...

Interesting, I don't think I've every tried these. I have a feeling its a real art getting them exactly to the right texture that is good for eating but also good for cooking