I’m always in search of ways to prepare “greens” beyond my usual routine of sautéing them in a pan with olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper (and often, a generous dash of of hot sauce).

Gnudi are an Italian (Tuscan) classic. As the name implies, gnudi are literally nude (nudi/naked), the ravioli filling without it’s outer pasta covering. They are light, delicate dumplings made from ricotta cheese. Sometimes gnudi are made with spinach and stale bread crumbs and referred to as strangolpreti (which translates into ‘priest strangler’). As the story goes, ‘gluttonous priests were so enthralled by the savory pasta that they ate too quickly and choked themselves’ (perhaps an old wives tale?).

Today’s version of gnudi are made with Tuscan (aka lacinato) kale, but you could also try this with other greens (e.g., stinging nettle, chard, beet greens, spinach). In addition to greens, you’ll need breadcrumbs, eggs, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and grated nutmeg.

To prepare the gnudi, quickly blanch the kale leaves. Next, all the ingredients (including the kale leaves) are processed until smooth in a food processor. From there, it’s just a matter of forming the gnudi, lightly dusting them in flour to coat, and then dropping them into salted, simmering water. When they float to the top (just a minute or two is all it takes), you know they’re done. Top with some hot melted butter, grated Parmesan, and a pinch of red pepper flakes; I also topped the gnudi with some chive and basil flowers from the garden.

If you like, you can crisp up the boiled gnudi in a hot skillet with olive oil or butter. While an extra step, the result is quite nice — a little crispy on the outside yet still soft and pillow-y on the inside.


Forming the gnudi…



I served the gnudi simply with melted butter, freshly grated Parmesan, a dash of red pepper flakes, and some basil and chive flavors from the garden.



Kale Gnudi

makes ~40 gnudi
Adapted from Pasta by Hand (Jenn Louis)
3/4 pound Lacinato kale leaves, removed from stems (stems discarded); about 2 large bunches of kale
5 tablespoons homemade bread crumbs (recipe below)
2 eggs
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus extra for serving
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
all purpose flour for dusting
2 to 3 tablespoons melted butter
red pepper flakes

Prepare an ice water bath. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the kale leaves into the simmering water and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain and immediately transfer the leaves to the ice water bath. Drain, pat dry, and finely chop the leaves.

Process the bread crumbs in a food processor until finely ground. Add the chopped kale, eggs, ricotta cheese, Parmesan, a few swipes of nutmeg, salt and pepper. Process until well combined.

Line two baking sheets with parchment and lightly dust with flour. Scoop heaping teaspoons of the ricotta mixture and use the second spoon to push onto the prepared baking sheet. With your fingers, gently roll the gnudi to lightly dust with flour (alternatively, you can form the gnudi into small balls). Repeat with the remaining mixture.

At this point, you can boil right away or refrigerate (a day or two), uncovered.

Bring a pot of water to a simmer (keep the water at a rapid simmer; boiling water can cause the gnudi to fall apart). Generously salt the water. Drop the gnudi in the simmering water (in batches). Cook until they float to the surface, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the gnudi with a slotted spoon.

Serve with melted butter and grated Parmesan (and red pepper flakes if you like).

Note: You can crisp up the gnudi in a skillet with butter or olive oil. Just heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil or butter in a non-stick skillet. When hot, add the gnudi and cook until lightly brown. With a spatula gently turn the gnudi to crisp the other sides.

Homemade Breadcrumbs

3-4 slices of bread (whole wheat, multigrain, sourdough), roughly chopped.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (such as rosemary, oregano, thyme)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Place the bread in the food processor and pulse until roughly chopped (you should have ~2 cups).

In a large bowl, toss the breadcrumbs with olive oil, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper. Place the breadcrumbs on a baking sheet and toast for about 15 minutes until golden brown (rotate halfway through). Allow the breadcrumbs to cool. Place the breadcrumbs in the food processor and pulse a few times until the breadcrumbs are finely processed. Store in an airtight container. I love to prepare a big batch of breadcrumbs and keep them in an airtight container in the fridge for future use.

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