These pillowy ricotta gnudi along with the vibrant green spring vegetables make for a delicious and comforting supper. This post was sponsored by Calphalon. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Beyond Sweet and Savory possible.
After a long winter, I look forward to the return of my favorite spring ingredients like ramps, fava beans, peas, artichokes, morel mushrooms, and rhubarb. These beautiful ingredients go into many dishes that grace our table from the end of March until May. To celebrate the arrival of spring, I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Calphalon and bring you one of my favorite spring weeknight dinners, ricotta gnudi with fava, peas, asparagus, and morel. These pillowy ricotta dumplings along with the vibrant green spring vegetables make for a delicious and comforting supper.
What is gnudi
Gnudi originates from Tuscany and translates to “naked” in Italian. They are thought to be the naked filling of ravioli — without the pasta that surrounds it. Gnocchi are potato based while gnudi are made mainly with ricotta, a bit of flour, and sometimes with greens like spinach, ramps, and kale. They are delicate little dumplings that require gentle handling.
Tips for buying ricotta
Making gnudi from scratch has never been easier. It requires only six ingredients–ricotta, Parmesan cheese, flour, egg, salt, and pepper. The key to the best gnudi is using high quality ricotta. Seek out sheep’s whole milk ricotta from your local Italian grocery store or specialty market. Quality ricotta only has milk, salt, and either an acid or natural culture for its ingredients. Avoid ricotta with various gums and stabilizers listed as ingredients because they are used to artificially thicken the milk solids. If you can’t find high quality sheep’s whole milk ricotta, cow’s milk ricotta that is moist, soft, and creamy is a great substitute.
Tips for making gnudi
- Make sure your ricotta is not wet. To remove the excess water, place ricotta in a cheese cloth and drain it for an hour before use. If you’re short on time, spread the ricotta out on a triple layer of paper towels or a clean kitchen towel, and press it down with more clean towels until the water is removed.
- The key to creamy gnudi is to use as little flour as possible inside the dumplings.
- Chill the ricotta mixture for 30 minutes before shaping them. The firmer the mixture, the easier it is to roll them out.
- Generously flour the outside of the gnudi. Shower them in flour before they’re refrigerated, dust the baking sheet with flour, and coat the top of the dumplings with more flour before boiling them. The flour forms a protective layer around each gnudi, making it easier to drop them into the boiling water and keeping their shape.
- Chill the gnudi in the refrigerator for a minimum of 60 minutes before boiling helps them firm up. It’s even better if you can keep them in the fridge for 24-48 hours so they can form a nice skin.
- Keep the gnudi refrigerated until you’re ready to cook.
- I usually make a double batch of ricotta gnudi so I can freeze half and make two meals out of them.
How to cook the gnudi
Bring a large saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil. I love using my Calphalon Premier™ Hard-Anodized Nonstick 2.5 qt Sauce Pan for this job. It’s big enough to accommodate all the gnudi. Reduce the heat to medium so the water is simmering but not boiling vigorously or the gnudi might fall apart. Gnudi is a lot more delicate compared to regular pasta. If you have a small saucepan, cook the gnudi in batches by gently dropping them in water. Give the water a quick stir with a wooden spoon to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot. It takes about 2-3 minutes for them to cook. Once they float up to the surface, transfer them out with a slotted spoon directly into a waiting saute pan with warm brown butter.
I used my Calphalon Premier™ Hard-Anodized Nonstick saute pan to brown the gnudi on both sides. With its superior nonstick performance – 40% longer than Calphalon Classic™ – and effortless food release, I only needed 2 tablespoons of butter to brown the whole batch of gnudi instead of 4 tablespoons. With the hard-anodized aluminum construction, it delivers even heat distribution without hot spots perfect for creating that beautiful caramelized gnudi crust.
How to prepare the spring vegetables
- Fava beans: fava beans, also called broad beans, are a popular ingredient in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. Snap the pod open and remove the beans. Cook the fava beans in a pot of salted water until the skin turns bright green and becomes soft, about 1-3 minutes depending on size. Transfer them to a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking process. Once they are cool enough to handle, use your fingers to remove the waxy, white translucent covering and you’ll be rewarded with tender and buttery fava beans.
- English peas: English peas, also known as shell peas, are a type of garden peas known for their sweet flavor and bright, beautiful green color. You can buy fresh ones and pod them yourselves or buy the fresh prepodded ones. Shell English peas immediately before cooking. Break off the stem and pull the fibrous string down the length of the pod. Press each pod between your thumbs and forefingers to open, pushing out the individual peas. If you can’t find fresh English peas, feel free to use frozen ones.
- Asparagus: While asparagus is found year round in grocery stores, its peak season is spring. Look for spears that are brightly colored and have compact, tightly closed tips. Spears that are ridged or look dry have lost their flavor. Before cooking, snap off the woody bottoms then cut them into 2 inch batons.
- Morel mushrooms: Morels are wild mushrooms, so it’s common to find bugs on or in them. Inspect the morels for dirt and debris, cleaning them off with a dry pastry brush. To prepare them for cooking, slice off the tough and dirty end of each stem. For larger morels, slice them in half lengthwise.
How to make the spring vegetable sauce
The sauce for the ricotta gnudi is a medley of beautiful spring ingredients with a bit of pancetta for additional protein. To make this dish completely vegetarian, skip the pancetta. Both the asparagus and fava beans need to be blanched prior to cooking. Use a large saute pan to cook the shallot, garlic, and pancetta until golden. Add the morel mushrooms, peas, blanched asparagus and fava beans and cook for 5-7 minutes until softened and season with salt and pepper to taste.
What to serve with gnudi
Once you have both the vegetable sauce and browned ricotta gnudi, transfer the vegetables to the pan with gnudi and toss to combine. Feel free to serve the ricotta gnudi with fava, peas, asparagus, and morel mushrooms straight from the pan. Lemon zest and mint also go well with this dish. For me, all I need is a generous grating of Parmesan cheese and a few grinds of pepper.
The ricotta gnudi serves as a beautiful canvas for seasonal fava beans, peas, asparagus, and morel mushrooms. Feel free to customize the sauce with your favorite spring ingredients. Use just peas, fava beans, or asparagus or a combination of what you fancy. Bite into these light and pillowy dumplings along with buttery fava, sweet peas, tender asparagus, earthy morel, and salty pancetta for the perfect spring dinner. Once you learn how to make ricotta gnudi, the possibilities for your weeknight dinners become endless as you move through the seasons!
Ricotta gnudi with fava peas asparagus and morel
- 1 cup sheep's-milk or other whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 2 tbsps unsalted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 2 ounces Pancetta, diced
- 1 cup asparagus, cut into 2 inch batons
- 3/4 cup podded fava beans
- 1/2 cup shelled English peas
- 1/2 cup morel mushroom
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Extra Parmesan for serving
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and generously dust with flour.
- To make the gnudi, combine ricotta, Parmesan, and egg in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and, using a spoon, gently mix in the flour, taking care not to overmix (which could result in tough dumplings). Refrigerate ricotta mixture for 30 minutes to firm up.
- Generously dust a work surface with all-purpose flour and turn the ricotta mixture out onto it. Gently knead the dough with floured hands. If it seems very wet and sticky, work in 2 tablespoons of flour at a time, gently folding it over and continuing to dust it until you form a dough. You should get a 14-oz dough ball. With a floured bench scraper or knife, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces.
- Starting at the center of the dough and pressing lightly with your fingers, roll each portion into a 3/4-by-12-inch rope, gently pulling and stretching the dough as you roll. Cut into 1/2-inch pieces and place on the prepared baking sheet. Dust the top of the gnudi with more flour and transfer the prepared baking sheet to the fridge. Let the gnudi sit in the fridge for up to 48 hours.
- To prepare the vegetable sauce, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the shelled fava beans and cook for 1-3 minutes depending on the size of the fava beans. Transfer the cooked fava beans into a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking process. Remove the cap at the top of the fava bean and slip each bean out of its waxy coating.
- To blanch the asparagus, bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 1 minute. Transfer the cooked asparagus into a bowl with iced water to stop the cooking process.
- Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallot, garlic, and pancetta and cook until golden, about 3 minutes. Add fava beans, asparagus, peas, and morels, to the pan tossing occasionally, until slightly softened, about 7-8 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
- Cook butter in a heavy large saute pan over medium heat just until golden, stirring often, about 4-5 minutes.
- To cook the gnudi, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add in 1 teaspoon of salt and turn the heat down to medium so the water is simmering. Gently drop the gnudi into the pot. Cook, stirring gently, for 5 minutes.
- As the gnudi float to the top, use a slotted spoon to transfer them directly into the pan with brown butter. Cook the gnudi for 2 minutes on each side until they form a golden crust.
- Transfer the vegetables to the pan with browned ricotta gnudi and toss until combined.
- When ready to serve divide gnudi and sauce among shallow bowls and top with extra Parmesan and freshly ground pepper.