Ricotta Gnudi with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce

fresh tomato sauce

The tomato sauce I present here was made with fresh tomatoes from my garden. All of a sudden I found myself with an excess of them and figured a rich and luscious homemade tomato sauce made perfect use of the harvest. I can't imagine making a sauce this delicious during the winter months when the fresh tomatoes available are expensive and rather bland. Canned varieties often don't satisfy my palate either. I was delighted to go "grocery shopping" in my backyard for hot peppers and fresh herbs to complete the experience.

I made this sauce for another reason too. I recently came across a recipe that Rosa posted for ricotta gnudi. It looked so gorgeous and was completely new to me, so I figured, why not give it a try. I admit that I was rather nervous, as I didn't know what to expect, but I adore ricotta cheese and it pairs so well with tomato sauce. Dumplings I have made, yes, but these are unlike any dumplings I have tried to date.

ricotta gnudi with homemade tomato sauce

What is gnudi you may ask? These pillowy little pasta-like dumplings are Tuscan in origin and are much like a gnocchi without the potatoes, so they are lighter and easier to prepare. They sort of reminded me of ravioli, without the pasta component. Once you have tried them, you will find yourself craving them time and time again.

I left the ricotta mixture to chill for an hour or so in the refrigerator before shaping them, but the dough was still rather sticky and I started to worry that the gnudi was going to fall apart when I added it to the water. Gently shaping them with floured hands on a floured surface helps, and I am still researching all of the different ways cooks can make their own gnudi, and that may take a while, as there appear to be a variety of methods and flavor combinations. For the most part, they didn't fall apart and although these little bites of goodness might not look all that pretty at first to you, when you add the sauce into the mix, it becomes an attractive plate indeed. The gnudi is fairly mild on its own, making it a perfect vehicle for the slightly spicy and herby sauce.

So our Italian evening was a success. Served with a side leafy green salad dressed with an oil and balsamic dressing along with homemade mini Gruyère scones, it turned out to be an intimate meal for three. One of my diners declared it was rather like having a "snacky" meal, and I guess it was, because it was characterized by rustic charm with distinct elegance that really ought to be enjoyed slowly, in a candlelit setting. Sometimes, smaller bites make for the most satisfying dinners.

ricotta gnudi

Notes: I included dried mushrooms in my sauce for an earthly and meaty texture and also sun-dried tomatoes for additional chunkiness and thickness, but you don't need to include them to come up with your own fresh and vibrant sauce. Feel free to experiment with whatever herbs you have on hand and if fresh ones are not readily available, substitute dried herbs from your spice rack. You don't even have to make it spicy at all if you don't want too (simply omit the hot pepper and spices), although I found that the spices enhanced the flavor without overpowering the other ingredients or the gnudi. If you have leftover sauce, serve it with some tortilla chips or boil up a pot of pasta or serve with your favorite savory snacks calling out for a chutney-style sauce. The sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in the fridge for a few days in a well sealed jar or container.

Ricotta Gnudi with Homemade Chunky Tomato SauceRicotta Gnudi with Homemade Chunky Tomato Sauce
Recipe by
Adapted from Rosa's Yummy Yums
Cuisine: Italian
Published on September 16, 2013

Tender, creamy ricotta cheese pasta dumplings served with a rich, vibrant and zesty homemade tomato sauce

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Tomato sauce:
  • 3 to 4 sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 oz (28 g) mixed dried mushrooms
  • 8 medium tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red chili flakes
  • pinch of cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar, jaggery or brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, trimmed and chopped (3/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme, trimmed (3/4 teaspoon dried)
  • 4 fresh basil leaves, chopped (1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
Ricotta gnudi:
  • 9 oz (250 g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • generous 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/3 cup spelt or unbleached white flour + more for shaping the mixture
  • fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • To make the tomato sauce, begin by soaking the sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain and chop.

  • Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until it begins to brown — about 2 minutes. Add the chilies to the pan and stir for another minute.

  • Now add the fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, paprika, dried red chili flakes, cayenne, sugar and a portion of the salt. If using dried herbs, add them now. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened — about 20 to 30 minutes. If using fresh herbs, add them during the last 10 minutes of cooking time to maximize flavor. Add more salt and adjust seasonings. This sauce can easily be reheated before serving.

  • To make the gnudi, combine the ricotta, egg, black pepper, lemon zest, Parmesan, salt and flour in a medium bowl. Stir until well combined. Chill in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.

  • Dust a surface liberally with flour (this could be a baking sheet, piece of parchment paper or large cutting board). Using 2 large soup spoons, shape the dough into 1 1/2 to 2 inch long football shapes and transfer to the floured surface. You ought to have 14 to 16 gnudi. Dust with more flour and gently shape them further and roll them in flour. You want them soft but not too sticky.

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Carefully add the gnudi and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate and let cool for 10 to 15 minutes.

  • If desired, for an extra buttery flavor, fry the cooled gnudi in butter. Heat 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. When hot, fry the gnudi in 2 batches, a few minutes for each, turning often until lightly browned. Remove from the pan.

  • To serve, spread a few tablespoons of warm tomato sauce onto the plate, top with a serving of gnudi, and ladle more sauce on top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and some fresh chopped basil.

Makes 2 to 3 servings

More cheesy comfort:
Cheddar Dijon Biscuits
Cheese and Herb Fritters with Tomato and Balsamic Jam
Homemade Olive Tapenade Pizza
Ricotta Dumplings with Mushroom Sauce

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cookingwithsapana said...

Wonderful ricotta gundi .. Lovely clicks !

Swathi said...

Delicious this is new dish to me Lisa.

Lail | With A Spin said...

Exquisite. Great flavors.