I started subscribing to Bon Appetit magazine about 3 years. Up until then I would buy the magazine only occasionally when I was attracted to something yummy looking on the cover. By the time I started buying it nearly every month, I thought it would be best - and cheaper - if I caved in and subscribed.
The subscription card I used advertised a free-gift-with-subscription, a "Tastes of Italy" cookbook. The cookbook turned out to be a small, pocket-sized 42-page booklet of recipes from Appetizers to Desserts, but as demure as it is in stature, it consists of many recipes that are big on flavor. Tom and I have prepared what have become many favorites from its pages. This recipe is one.
So what is Gnudi (correctly pronounced nyoo-dee, but in our house it's simply noo-dee)? It's a little like Gnocchi, but more tender because it uses cheese instead of potatoes and contains less flour. The texture is more like a light and tender old fashioned dumpling.
Granted this dish takes a little time, even if you don't make your own Ricotta cheese like I do. But I swear to you, if you love Italian food, if you love pasta, this dish is worth every bit of effort. The contrast of the rich, tender dumplings with the earthy meatiness of the mushrooms in the herby broth and the hint of black truffle oil is truly Yuuummmmm inspiring. The tender dumplings almost melt in your mouth. I especially love that extra little crunch of the crisped prosciutto and fried fresh sage leaves.
We did have to make a slight adjustment to the recipe for the sauce. The original recipe calls for "wild" mushrooms. I have difficulty finding any specialty produce locally. Shitaki is about the wildest mushroom we get in these parts. To avoid driving all the way to Little Rock for oyster, trumpet or enoki mushrooms, I used a mixture of shitaki, crimini (also called baby bellas) and white button mushrooms. When you slice the shitaki mushrooms, discard the stems or toss them in your compost pile. The stems are woody and will become stringy and inedible during cooking.
Although I purchase my black truffle oil online, I've seen it for sale locally in the kitchen department at T.J. Maxx.
So now that we have all the necessary ingredients, let's get started. You will just have to take this dish a step at a time and you'll start by making the Gnudi. Gather just a few simple ingredients: fresh ricotta, an egg, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, white pepper and flour.
If you've purchased your ricotta, you'll need to drain it in a colander using paper towels or cheese cloth. While the ricotta is draining, mix the egg, Romano cheese, salt and pepper together until well blended, mix in the ricotta, then sprinkle with 1/4 of a cup of the flour and stir in gently to blend.
Voila! You've prepared the Gnudi dough. Easy peasy. Now just cover it and chill the dough for an hour. You can even make the dough a day ahead and chill it overnight.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and put some flour in a bowl.
For each Gnudi, gently roll one heaping teaspoonful of dough into a ball, place it in the bowl of flour, toss to lightly coat, then shape the ball into a short log and place the log onto the baking sheet.
I know you're wondering about those ridges on the dough. Tom loves this gadget...
It's a Gnocchi board. It's about 8-inches long, including the handle. Tom likes the way it makes the Gnudi and Gnocchi look professionally made. Though very traditional in Italian cooking, it is not really necessary, but it's cheap (under $10) and easy to use. You just roll each piece of dough gently over the surface of the paddle.
Anyway, when you've used all the dough to shape your Gnudi, cover it and keep it refrigerated while you prepare the sauce.
First crisp up the prosciutto in a frying pan and drain on a paper towel. Then fry up some fresh sage leaves until their crispy and drain. Set those aside.
Now add the aromatics to the pan: shallots, thyme and chopped fresh sage leaves.
Sauté gently and once the shallots are translucent, add the mushrooms and sauté until the mushrooms are brown and the mushroom liquid has evaporated.
Remove the mushroom mixture from the pan to a bowl. Add chicken broth to the pan, bring it to a boil and simmer until slightly reduced. Turn off the heat under the pan and add a teaspoon of truffle oil (or more, if you want a stronger truffle flavor) to the liquid and stir, then add the mushroom mixture back into the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm while you prepare the Gnudi.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add a couple of teaspoons of salt. Cook the Gnudi in the boiling water until very tender, about 8 minutes.
While the Gnudi is cooking, rewarm the sauce over medium heat and add a 1/2 a stick of butter cut into small cubes and mix with the sauce until butter is melted and well blended.
When the Gnudi is done, remove it from the boiling water to a strainer, then transfer it to the pot with the sauce. Toss with the sauce until the Gnudi is well coated. Dump it all into a large shallow pasta bowl and top with crumbled prosciutto and crispy sage leaves and serve with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese and hot crusty bread.
Ricotta Gnudi with Wild Mushroom and Truffle Sauce
Adapted from Bon Appetit
For the Gnudi:
- 1 pound fresh ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus additional for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- large pinch of ground white pepper
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus additional for coating
- 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 6 thin slices prosciutto
- 12 whole fresh sage leaves, stems removed
- 2 pounds fresh wild mushrooms, sliced (stemmed shitaki, oyster, enoki, trumpet) I used a combination of shitaki, crimini and white button mushrooms
- 2 large shallots, chopped
- 6 springs fresh thyme
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon black truffle oil (or more according to your taste preference)
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, diced
If you did not make your own ricotta, line a colander with cheesecloth or several layers of paper towels. Spoon the container of ricotta cheese into the colander and allow to drain at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour.
When the ricotta is almost drained, beat the egg, 1/3 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, salt, and white pepper in large bowl to blend. Mix in the ricotta. Sprinkle 3/4 cup flour over and stir gently to blend. Cover and chill dough 1 hour. This can be made 1 day ahead, but keep chilled.
Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or plastic wrap. Place some flour in bowl. For each gnudi, gently roll 1 heaping teaspoonful of dough into ball. Add to flour; toss to coat lightly, shaping into short log. Place on baking sheet. Cover and chill (up to 4 hours) while making the sauce.
For the Sauce and Garnishes:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large pot or extra-large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 prosciutto slices. Cook until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to paper towels. Repeat with remaining prosciutto. Add whole sage leaves to the pan; sauté until crisp, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to paper towels.
Heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil in same pan over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, thyme, and chopped sage sauté until the shallots are translucent. Add all of the mushrooms and sauté until brown and their liquids evaporate, about 12 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to bowl. Add the chicken broth to same pan and boil until the broth is slightly reduced, scraping up browned bits, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 1 teaspoon truffle oil and mushroom mixture back to the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Bring a large pot of water and 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil. Add the Gnudi and cook in the boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, turn the heat back on under the sauce to rewarm. Add butter; toss until blended.
When the Gnudi is done, remove it from the boiling water to a strainer, then transfer it to the pan with the sauce. Toss with the sauce until the Gnudi is well coated. Dump it all into a large shallow pasta bowl and top with crumbled prosciutto and crispy sage leaves and serve with additional grated Pecorino Romano cheese and hot crusty bread.