Gnudi are little dumplings, like gnocchi, but made with ricotta instead of potatoes. Most places don’t do gnudi justice. They are often mushy and heavy, instead of light and fluffy, like these. This recipe makes 36 to 40 gnudi, or enough for 6 to 8 people as a first course. The dough does not keep well, so you need to plan on serving a crowd, or serve hearty, main-dish size portions.
- To make the gnudi, combine the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, egg, butter, and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl and use a rubber spatula to gently fold the ingredients together.
- Sprinkle the flour over the ricotta mixture and gently fold in the flour from the edges inward, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you work; you are not really working the dough as much as you are simply allowing the ricotta mixture to absorb the flour.
- When all the flour has been absorbed and it is no longer visible, use one hand to gently bring the dough together into a ball, dusting the sides of the bowl and the dough lightly with flour as you work. Roll the dough around in the floured bowl so the outside isn’t sticky.
- Dust a baking sheet with flour. Gently tear off a 1⁄2-ounce piece of dough, dust your hands lightly with flour, and roll the dough gently into a ball slightly smaller than a Ping-Pong ball and place it on the baking sheet. and Repeat until you have rolled all of the dough. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
- To finish and serve the gnudi, fill a large stockpot with 6 quarts of water, add 6 tablespoons of salt, and bring the water to a boil over high heat. If you are not using a pasta pot, place a colander in the sink or have a wire strainer handy for lifting the gnudi out of the water.
- While the water is coming to a boil, make the sauce.
For the Sauce
- Heat the olive oil in 2 large sauté pans over medium- high heat until the oil is almost smoking and slides easily in the pans, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cut side down, dividing them evenly between the two pans.
- Season the mushrooms with salt and sauté without turning them and stirring them as little as possible without burning them, until they are golden brown. Turn the mushrooms and cook them for about 1 minute on the other side to brown them slightly.
- Reduce the heat to low, add the garlic and thyme, season the garlic with salt, and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t brown.
- Add the butter, dividing it evenly between the pans, and add 1⁄2 cup of fresh water to each pan.
- Increase the heat to medium to melt the butter and bring the liquid to a simmer, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula to emulsify the sauce.
- Add the spinach in handfuls, dividing it evenly and gently folding it in with the mushrooms until it barely wilts. Turn off the heat while you cook the gnudi.
- Remove the gnudi from the refrigerator and drop them into the boiling water.
- Stir to prevent the gnudi from sticking together, partially cover the pot so the water returns to a boil quickly and continues boiling, and cook until they float to the top, about 4 minutes.
- About 1 minute before the gnudi are done, place the sauce over high heat. Lift the gnudi out of the cooking water or drain it and immediately add it to the pans with the sauce, dividing it evenly.
- Cook the pasta with the sauce for 2 minutes, stirring gently with a rubber spatula so you don’t smash the gnudi, to coat them with the sauce, adding some fresh water if necessary for the sauce to be glistening and easily coat the gnudi.
- (Adding the water you cooked the gnudi in will make the dish too salty.) Add the finishing- quality olive oil evenly to the two pans and simmer for another minute, stirring vigorously, until the sauce is emulsified and creamy looking.
- Pushing the gnudi to the side, spoon some of the mushrooms and spinach from the pans into the center of each plate to create a bed for the gnudi. Divide the gnudi among the plates, and spoon any vegetables or sauce left in the pan over the gnudi. Use a microplane or another fine grater to grate a light layer of Parmigiano-Reggiano over each plate, and serve.