Ricotta Gnudi

Okay…I’ll admit it. I have a favorite type of food.

But who doesn’t?

My favorite type of food is homey. It’s comfort. It’s not pretentious.

It’s Italian.

A dream of mine is to travel to Italy and study the food. The wine. But just one region. I don’t know…Tuscany…or maybe Florence…Sicily? I haven’t decided yet. Each has their perks.

Why just one region you might ask? Well, think of the United States. We have different regions that consume different types of food. Down here in the Southern states we eat heavier items such as fried chicken and macaroni and cheese. Up in the Northern areas you have pizza and Philly cheesesteaks. You can’t forget about chili and tacos as you head out West. I mean, you very rarely walk into a restaurant that has all of these options available to you. So why should you walk into an Italian restaurant expecting items from each region? You shouldn’t. The climate dictates the food. And as it should.

I want to take this knowledge and open up my own little Italian place. Great food. Great wine. What’s not to love?

The only problem is that I have to choose. But I don’t have to choose now. Today, I can make whatever I want. Today, I will make Ricotta Gnudi or as I like to call them…Delicious, Cheesy Pillows.

Shall we begin?

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THE INGREDIENTS.

  • 2 cups Whole Milk Ricotta
  • ½ cup Parmesan, finely grated
  • 1 Whole Egg, beaten
  • 1 Egg Yolk, beaten
  • ½ teaspoon Black Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Salt
  • ½ cup Flour (plus some)
  • Tomato Sauce

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THE METHOD. We are basically making a very light dumpling. It’s easy to throw together, but takes a little bit of trial and error.

  • Place the ricotta, Parmesan, whole egg, egg yolk, salt and pepper in a bowl. Stir until everything is combined.
  • Fold in the ½ cup of flour. The dough will probably be pretty wet at this point. Add more flour a little bit at a time (say a tablespoon at a time) until the dough is soft, but not wet looking. It will sort of form a ball.
    • This step is why I said it’s trial and error. Until you make them once, you won’t really know what works and what doesn’t. To make this easier, have a pot of boiling water on the stove. Make a dumpling and cook it. Taste it. If it works, then make the rest. If it doesn’t (taste wise or consistency wise, fix it and repeat).
  • To make the gnudi, you’ll need two large spoons. We’ll be making “quenelles” or oval, football-shaped dumplings. You use the two spoons to mold the dough in the shape. Very difficult to explain via text so look at the pictures.

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  • As you form the quenelles, place them on a floured baking sheet.
  • To cook, place the dumplings in the boiling water. They will float to the top pretty soon after you add them, but they aren’t done cooking yet. Allow the dumplings to cook for 5-6 minutes. Strain them and toss with your favorite sauce…tomato…brown butter and sage…it’s your choice!

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ENJOY IT. This is a dish that you might not get right the first time. Maybe the gnudi are too dense or perhaps they disintegrated while you cooked them. Most foods are trial and error. Very rarely does a dish turn out fantastic the first time you make it. But don’t give up because there is nothing like the feeling of finally nailing a recipe that you’ve been struggling with for awhile. If you do nail it the first time, eat a gnudi and do a happy dance.

Until next time…

 

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This is How We Roll…Lasagna That Is…

In the middle of the week, I like to do something simple. Who doesn’t? And what’s simpler than going onto Pinterest and finding yourself a recipe? Not much, in my opinion. These recipes cater to college students and moms who, frankly, don’t have that much time on their hands, but yet they want to make a delicious and healthy meal for their family. Kudos to them.

Lasagna Rolls

Lasagna Rolls

I stumbled upon this recipe several months ago and I love it. It’s Lasagna Rolls. What’s not to love about it? You get lasagna in half the time. Not to mention it also bakes in half the time. Cha-ching, people. Cha-ching.

I’m not one to follow a recipe, though. It’s a waste of my culinary education (to the parentals…) if I don’t add a little something that makes it my own. So, how does Portobello Mushroom Lasagna Rolls sound? Delicious? I thought so…

Let’s get started!

THE INGREDIENTS.

  • Pancetta
  • Tomato Sauce (Recipe to follow)
  • Portobello Mushroom
  • Whole Milk Ricotta
  • Parmesan
  • Mozzarella
  • Egg
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Lasagna Noodles, par cooked

THE METHOD. Surprisingly, there are a couple of techniques to learn while making this dish as strange as that sounds. The two major components here are the sauce and the filling.

TIMG_2550HE SAUCE. I make a basic tomato sauce. There are 6 ingredients ( Well, main ingredients. I don’t count oil, salt, and pepper as ingredients…those are requirements to almost any dish). That’s it. It’s a sauce that lets the ingredients shine, which is what I love about it. And since there are only six ingredients, they need to be some of the best ingredients that you’ve ever eaten.

 

  • San Marzano Tomatoes, whole, canned
  • Yellow Onion, chopped
  • Garlic Cloves, minced
  • Red Pepper Flake
  • Fresh Thyme
  • Dried Bay Leaf
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste

In a hot pot, add the olive oil and sauté the onion until translucent. Add your minced garlic and and red pepper flake. Cook this for a minute just to bring out the aromatics. Crush the whole tomatoes and add to the pot. Add whole thyme sprigs and bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave it to cook over low heat for as long as possible. Tomato sauce is one of those things that the longer you let it cook, the better it will taste.

Some folks add sugar to their tomato sauce to combat the acidity of the tomatoes, but I really like it the way it is. I like it to have that bite. Also, I always make my tomato sauce with canned tomatoes because they are picked when ripe, steamed, and then canned. You can’t get a better tomato for a sauce than that. That’s just my opinion, though.

Now, I already had the sauce made from a previous Italian dish. So, I just pulled it out of the freezer and let it thaw out. To add a little something extra to this dish, I crisped up some pancetta and then poured the sauce over it to cook for a couple more hours. It gives it a unique saltiness and flavor.

IMG_2542THE FILLING. The other main component is, of course, the filling. It starts out as a basic ricotta filling and then you can add whatever flavors you want to it. I bought some baby portobello mushrooms at the grocery store earlier in the week and I know that they will work really well in this lasagna.

To prepare the mushrooms for the filling, chop them as fine as possible. I used a food processor for this because it makes life easier. You’re basically making a mushroom paste here. Add the paste to a dry pan over medium heat and cook down until all the moisture has evaporated. Believe it or not, mushrooms hold a lot of moisture and it is necessary to cook it all out so that the filling doesn’t become soggy. It will take about 15 to 20 minutes.

IMG_2548Put the cooked down paste into a medium-sized bowl and let it cool down. Once it is cool, add your ricotta, parmesan, and shredded mozzarella. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir until fully combined. This is where you need to make sure that your seasoning is on point. It actually should be a little over seasoned because once it is added to the pasta, the flavor will neutralize a bit.

At this point, it’s time to add the egg. The egg functions as a binder for the filling. It will make sure it holds together and doesn’t ooze out of your roll as you bake it in the oven. This is also why I suggested you already have your seasoning on point because people have issues with eating raw egg (unless it’s part of cookie dough/ cake batter it seems, but the egg really isn’t raw in those recipes, it is?)

IMG_2551THE ASSEMBLY.  Ah, the easy part. All you do is take par-cooked lasagna noodles and lay them out on a clean surface. Spread a thin layer of the filling all the way down the noodle. Roll it up and place in a lightly-greased baking dish. Cover with your sauce. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 20 minutes at 400 F.

IMG_2552ENJOY IT. Serve with bread and a green salad. Relish in the fact that you made a delectable lasagna without all the hassle of the traditional lasagna. I personally think it’s a perfectly respectable replacement. Simple doesn’t have to be bland and I think that this recipe shows that. It has big, powerful flavors. Perhaps even the Italians will be accepting?