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Friday, 4 April 2008

tasty little italian gnudies

Gnudi. Not only exciting to chow down on but also such a lovely word. Where gnocchi sounds a little crusty, gnudi is cute, happy and lyrical. Say gnudi repeatedly and you sound like a slightly constipated teletubby (which is probably how I looked after eating my way through Italy for ten days in February).

The best thing in Rome was not the food but the Forum - like walking through a crumbling world of giants. But Tuscany - ah, sweet Tuscany - proved the hands down shizzle for veggie hearts: postcard pretty and filled with dee-li-shus dishes every town, every truck stop. Two standout meals were ricotta and spinach gnudi with sage and butter in Florence and a pureed radicchio ravioli with leek in a village in Chianti. Tonight I'm flying with the gnudi and am well into peas at the moment so throwing them into the mix too.

What you need for 2-3
250g ricotta
250g small spinach leaves
100g finely grated parmesan
grated nutmeg (roughly a teaspoon)
3 eggs (2 whole, 1 yolk only)
Around 250g semolina flour
A bunch of sage leaves
100g butter
a couple of handfuls of fresh peas

Making it
Cook, drain and chop the spinach (you'll get most of the water out using Chew's sushi mat technique). Dump the ricotta into a bowl, break it up a little then mix in two whole eggs, followed by the third yolk (discard the white). Add the spinach, nutmeg and parmesan, season the lot and combine well.

Shake semolina flour into a tray, shape your gnudi mix into balls (mine were a generous teaspoon each) and roll them in the flour. You can cook the gnudi immediately or make them ahead of time and leave them covered in the fridge. They'll firm up and absorb the semolina to form a nice little jacket.

When you are ready to rumble, drop the dumplings into boiling water for a few minutes (until they rise to the surface). Meanwhile, boil your peas for a minute. Melt the butter in a pan and add the sage to crisp, careful not to let the butter burn, then add the peas. When the gnudi is done, use a slotted spoon to get them onto the plate then pour the butter, peas and sage over the top. Dig in with a nice big glass of Italian red.

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