Gnudi with ramps and tomatoes

What is gnudi? As far as I can tell, gnudi is basically ricotta gnocchi. The word gnudi basically means "naked." So in this case, it refers to the typical filling for ravioli or tortellini without the pasta. So, in essence, it's naked ravioli filling. Perhaps, gnudi has less flour than a typical ricotta gnocchi recipe? I think it's the same thing. However, I think it's much more fun to say the word "gnudi" than it is to say "ricotta gnocchi." So, I'm going with "gnudi." 

In general, I'm a gnocchi fan. Those little soft dumplings are fun to eat and have a great comforting characteristic to them. The version most of us are familiar with is the gnocchi made with potatoes. They are delicious but they are also a bit labor intensive. You have to first boil, or my prefererred method, bake potatoes and them mash them to begin the process of making the dough. I will admit that I keep the shelf-stable, packaged version around for a quick meal. But those are never as pillowy-soft and tender as a homemade or restaurant version.

Gnudi, or gnocchi made from ricotta is much easier. And cheesier! (Sorry, couldn't help myself) It's something you can literally put together in the time it takes your pasta water to boil. It's a mixture of ricotta, parmesan, an egg, and enough flour to hold it together. Combine the ingredients until it forms a dough, then roll and cut into little gnudi. They only take a couple of minutes to cook. You can then saute them in some butter and serve as is or saute some seasonal vegetables in and add the gnudi to those. The possibilities are many.

One of the great treats of every spring is the arrival of ramp season. Ramps are a type of wild leek or onion, allium triccocum, that pop up each spring. They cannot be cultivated (I don't think) so they are truly an indicator of the arrival of spring. My in-laws even discovered them growing in their yard in Wisconsin! More importantly, they are delicious! The flavor is very oniony, garlicky and they are very fragrant. These are all good things, in my opnion. If you can get your hands on them, I highly recommend eating them as often as you can until they are gone. 

The sauce, or accompaniement, for my gnudi was one consisting of ramps, tomatoes, galic and a little white wine. But use whatever you have on hand. If you have zucchini, mushroom, eggplant, sausage, bacon, etc., just chop it up, saute them in olive oil and add your cooked gnudi. Shower the whole thing with cheese and eat. You can also just simply saute them in butter. Kids love this version.

GNUDI WITH RAMPS AND TOMATOES

Ingredients: 3/4 lb of whole milk ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup flour plus more for dusting, 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese plus more for garnish, 1 egg, 1 bunch of ramps, 1 can of drained diced tomatoes, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup white wine, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water well when it comes to a boil.
  2. To prepare the gnudi, first drain the ricotta of any excess water.
  3. Combine the ricotta, flour, egg, parmigiano cheese, and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt until it forms a soft dough. It may be a bit sticky. That's ok.
  4. On a floured work surface, turn the dough out and knead gently a couple of times until it stays together.
  5. Cut a portion of the dough and roll into a long snake.
  6. Cut little gnuni shapes with a bench scraper or knife and place in dish with a bed of flour until ready to cook. 
  7. Continue until you have rolled and cut all of the dough.
  8. For the sauce, finely chop the white and purple parts of the ramps and set aside. 
  9. Slice the green leaves of the ramps into wide ribbons and set aside.
  10. Finely slive 2 cloves of garlic and heat up in a pan with enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan.
  11. When the oil is hot, add the finely chopped white and purple ramp stems.
  12. Saute for a minute or so until they begin to get soft.
  13. Add the drained, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes.
  14. Deglaze the pan with white wine and cook until reduced.
  15. Drop the gnudi into a large pot of well-salted, boiling water.
  16. Add the leaves of the ramps and cook for another couple of minutes.
  17. When the gnudi float to the top, they are done. Remove them and add them directly into the pan of ramps and tomatoes.
  18. If the pan looks a bit dry, add a splash or 2 of the pasta cooking water.
  19. Cook the gnudi with the sauce for a minute and then plate.
  20. Garnish the plate with a bit more extra-virgin olive oil and as much cheese as you'd like.
  21. Eat.