It’s well-documented on this blog that I am no fan of winter and this tidbit makes me neither unique nor special. Many people suffer from some form of Seasonal Affective Disorder and knowing you’re one of many can be very comforting. Especially when you inexplicably dissolved into a 15-minute crying fit because you left your hat behind at a restaurant. Is it crazy? Sure. But it’s fine, it’s completely normal, this how most of the world reacts to January, right? Right? Anyway, because my mood was dipping and because today is apparently Blue Monday, I’ve spent the day trying to find the upside to winter. And it didn’t take my mind long to land on this Ricotta Gnudi Salad with Prosciutto & Forelle Pears. Of course! Kitchen projects! Kitchen projects will save me.
Epic cooks are pretty much the only activity the winter is good for. Well, except for skiing but how often can you really haul ass to a ski hill? I guess there’s also skating but I’m a bit shit at that, so really it’s rolling ricotta dumplings or bust. These Gnudi take a bit of time but they will make you feel all kinds of cozy. I would equate making these gnudi to having a Tamagotchi. I’m showing my age here, I know, but it’s a good analogy. Like digital pets, these gnudi aren’t particularly difficult to tend to but you do need to be aware of them. They don’t beep at you, though. So, they’re easier to forget about. Best keep that in mind.
The term gnudi is an English derivative of the Italian word “nudi” which means naked. Gnudi are essentially balls of seasoned ricotta rolled in semolina flour. That’s it. They take time because the longer you let them hang out in the semolina, the more likely they are to form an almost pasta-like shell, which will prevent them from busting apart when you introduce them to boiling water. You do have to keep rotating them in the semolina periodically to ensure the shell is forming evenly. I just made a habit of rotating my gnudi 90 degrees everytime I visited the fridge. It also made me hyper-aware of how many times I was heading the fridge, which was sobering, to say the least. It might prove beneficial to those with food-related resolutions.
Typically, gnudi are not served as a salad, so don’t mistake this Ricotta Gnudi Salad as particularly traditional. In the gnudi’s native Tuscany, they’re served in a brown butter sauce garnished with crispy sage. This is also how gnudi are served at the Spotted Pig, April Bloomfield’s restaurant in NYC. Bloomfield is the reason I couldn’t get gnudi out of my head, so I have nothing but love and respect for the traditional version of these dumplings. But I find gnudi to be incredibly rich, so I liked the idea of introducing raw ingredients to the party. The escarole offers hits of refreshment in every bite, while the Forelle pear brings an earthy sweetness that contrasts beautifully with the salty, umami-rich gnudi and prosciutto.
While I did nestle the gnudi between leaves of escarole, I didn’t leave the brown butter behind completely. I still sauteed the gnudi in a skillet with a considerable amount of butter. And I may or may not (I totally did) drizzle said butter over the greens. So, yeah, I didn’t shy away from the rich, sumptuous flavors of a near perfect dish in favor of vegetables. That’s just not me. But I will say, that the veggies do make the gnudi feel like a full-meal-deal rather than simply a starter.
So, that’s what’s up with this Ricotta Gnudi Salad with Proscuitto and Forelle Pears. This dish might just see you through winter. So, pop a Vitamin D pill, grab a glass of wine and launch into a full-on gnudi-making party in your kitchen. Take that Jack Frost!
- 1 (475 g/16.8 oz) tub ricotta
- 1 cup Grana Padano, shredded
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoon all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 3 cups semolina, divided
- 1 head escarole, coarsely chopped
- 3 Forelle pears, cut into wedges
- 100 g/ 3.5 oz prosciutto, torn into bite-sized pieces
- 4 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Place the ricotta on two layers of cheesecloth. Form the cloth into a bundle and suspend the bundle over the sink to drain the cheese of excess moisture. I tied my bundle to my faucet. Leave the ricotta to drain over night or for 8 hours.
- Place the drained ricotta, shredded Grana Padano, egg, garlic, flour, tarragon, salt, lemon juice and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Stir until smooth and uniform. Using a tablespoon to measure, form the ricotta mixture into balls and set aside.
- Pour half of the semolina flour into a casserole dish. Working one by one, roll each ricotta ball in the semolina until thoroughly coated. Organize the coated balls in an even layer on top of the remaining semolina. Cover the ricotta balls with the other half of the semolina. Transfer the casserole dish to the fridge and chill uncovered for at least 12 hours. Rotate the balls 90° every hour or two.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water and add the chilled gnudi to the water. Let cook for 3 minutes.
- While the gnudi is cooking, heat butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until melted and frothy.
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnudi from the water to the skillet in an even layer. Let the gnudi fry, undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, then shake the pan. Let fry for another 2-3 minutes or until golden. Add two ladles-full of the pasta water to the skillet and agitate the pan to coat the gnudi in the sauce as it forms.
- Place the escarole, pears and prosciutto in a large bowl and toss to combine. Divide the salad amongst four bowls and top with 6 gnudi per bowl. Drizzle the salad with any remaining brown butter sauce.
- Serve immediately.