Meatless Monday: Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi

Meatless Monday is a global movement, a way of life. It’s not a campaign to turn everyone in the world vegetarian or vegan; in fact, many involved are meat-lovers. Eating less meat has been proven to reduce the risk of disease, curb obesity and has important environmental impacts, too. Will you join us in giving up meat, just for one day a week?

Gnudi are melt-in-your-mouth dumplings made of creamy ricotta and Parmesan. Similar to gnocchi but made with less flour, the Italian dish is essentially “naked” ravioli. While from-scratch pasta might be a daunting weeknight task, homemade gnudi is not. It’s simple and utterly delicious.

Boiled and tossed with sauce, gnudi is tasty; baked with fresh cherry tomatoes and basil, gnudi reaches a whole new  level of awesome. Sneak in some greens by way of garlicky sauteed spinach and call it a day.

If the moisture content in your ricotta is very high, strain it for a bit over a fine sieve so that the gnudi holds together more easily. You can also bake the dumplings in store-bought sauce, but if you can swing the extra 5 to 10 minutes, those bursting sweet cherry tomatoes are highly worth it. A fresh baguette to sop up the extra sauce and cheese is also strongly recommended.

Gnudi All’ Acqua Al 2: Naked Ravioli
1 large bunch raw spinach, washed, dried, trimmed and chopped
5 tablespoons/74 ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for smearing hands
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 pound/450 g fresh ricotta cheese
4 tablespoons/57 g freshly grated Parmigiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
All-purpose flour, if needed
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 to 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to about 400 degrees F.

Saute the spinach with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 1/2 the quantity of the garlic for a few minutes until soft. Let cool. Then in a bowl, combine the spinach, ricotta, Parmigiano and salt to taste. Add a small amount of flour, a little at a time, only if ricotta if filled with too much moisture. Combine the mixture thoroughly.

Smear some olive oil on your hands. Scoop mixture, in the amount of an egg, onto the palm of your hands and form into a compact ball. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

In a saucepan, heat up the remaining olive oil, then add the remaining garlic, cherry tomatoes and basil and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Spoon half the sauce into a baking dish, then add the “gnudi” balls and top with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese and bake for approximately 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve immediately.

More Meatless Italian Dinner Ideas: