I thought famous people were proud, unapproachable, that they despised the crowd, and by their fame and the glory of their name, as it were, revenged themselves on the vulgar herd for putting rank and wealth above everything. But here they cry and fish, play cards, laugh and get cross like everyone else!
-Anton Chekhov (The Seagull)

No matter how busy things get around here, some things remain constants; they’re so embedded in my daily routine that it’s hard to imagine a day without them: coffee, my daily peek at the New York Times, checking in here to see if any of my favorite links have been updated…And, as ashamed as I am to admit it, I also always find time to skim the headlines at People. I take a look at Kate’s latest stunning outfit(!), read about Prince Harry’s antics in Southern California, and even sometimes (should there be a new one) click on the photo links that can either lead to the most up to date mugshot of poor Lindsay Lohan or to the history of Kim Kardashian’s 72 day marriage. Trust me when I say that I’m not always proud of myself for doing this, but it’s not Russian literature. It’s easy on the brain and equally so on the eyes. A girl needs to cut herself some pop cultural slack every now and then.

In my defense, you do sometimes find things that aren’t complete and utter rubbish at People. Sometimes they have recipes for either “hip and delish” cocktails or “dishes that celebrities love!” And, back in early September, shortly after Kim Kardashian married a basketball player with an appropriately spelled Kris for a first name, I discovered this recipe. I was slightly reluctant to click on it due to the prenuptial media blitz that had me (and many others) running from all things KK-related, but I couldn’t quite resist. Believe me when I say that it was all for the gnudi.

And rightly so. The recipe’s ingredient list immediately appealed to me–a container of ricotta cheese, breadcrumbs, blanched spinach and minimal flour. It sounded like a gnocchi, but less doughy, or, as one food blogger called it: “little pasta-like dumplings that are “naked” of their pasta wrapper, raviolis without anything to enclose them.” Gnudi, after all, does mean naked; what could be better than what essentially amounts to naked pillows of cheese? Right. I’m glad we’re all on the same page. And who do we all have to thank for this moment of culinary inspiration but West Village’s very own The Spotted Pig. I had breakfast there this past summer with my college roommate and the Greek and I can safely say that gnudi isn’t the only dish they’re doing right. I still occasionally have fantasies about their Dutch Baby pancake with Smoked Bacon….but I digress.
Returning to gnudi, however,  I must say that the recipes on the People website leave much to be desired. The instructions are overly pithy; it’s as if some poor intern managed to get the chef’s personal assistant on the phone for 20 seconds and they were hastily written down in shorthand. But, although I messed up the recipe because of this (I misread the line about 2 eggs, yolks to mean that I should use only the yolks. Obviously, without the whites, there was no true binding agent, which made an already delicate process even more difficult. Remember, people, you’re dealing with 80% cheese here),  they were still delicious. I don’t think there’s any way to truly mess this recipe up. It’s simply a matter of leaving things to sit and firm (as I recommend below, refrigerate the “shocked” gnudi for 30 minutes to an hour); also, a slotted spoon is truly your best friend when making this. It saves the integrity of the gnudi; you don’t want to sit around rolling cheese dumplings only to have them fall apart by hastily dumping them into a colander. Especially if half the fun is that you get to feel like you’ve created the “celebrity experience” (minus the crazy) at home.

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi

Serves 2-4, depending on whether it’s a meal or a side dish (your choice)
Slightly adapted from Scott Conant of Scarpetta for People Magazine 

For the gnudi: 
1 lb ricotta, sheep’s milk 
2 eggs, plus two yolks 
¼ cup spinach, blanched and chopped fine 
½ cup Pecorino Romano cheese
4 tbsp flour 
3 tbsp fresh breadcrumbs (I used panko)
To taste nutmeg, grated 
Salt and pepper to taste

For the brown butter sauce:  
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
2-3 Tbsp. freshly chopped tarragon

– Mix all the ingredients together & let rest for 10 minutes. 
– Make two small balls and test cook. Place in boiling water until they float, then shock in ice water. 
– Taste; if they are too soft and don’t hold together, add more flour and test again. 
– Portion all of the gnudi and roll into balls.                                                                               
– Cook and shock as before, then coat in olive oil and reserve.
– At this stage, I would suggest you refrigerate the gnudi for 30 minutes to an hour, so that they can become firm
– Then, bring a large pot of water to a simmer and add the gnudi.
– In a separate sauté pan or pot, add butter (I used a half a stick, i.e. 1/4 cup) and tarragon. Cook over medium heat until the butter browns. 
– Drain gnudi (the gnudi, at least when I cooked them, were quite delicate; I would suggest that you remove them with a slotted spoon and then set them on a plate covered with either parchment paper or a paper towel).
– Carefully pour over some of the browned butter and tarragon sauce and rotate the gnuid until they are coated in the mixture. 
– Finish with a sprinkling of Pecorino Romano and an additional dash of nutmeg. 
– Enjoy as they melt in your mouth!

One thought on “Three Cheers for (Naked) Cheese

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