The vegetarian table has come of age. No longer the poor cousin of omnivorous eating, meatless cooking now features as much depth in spices and flavors as one expects from the best meat-loving chefs and kitchens. In Herbivoracious, author Michael Natkin’s goal was to take meatless cooking beyond the bland and “crunchy” into a realm of intense, vibrant, globally inspired flavors. The following excerpt uses a light white wine sauce to highlight the flavors in this Basil Gnudi recipe with summer squash.
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Light and pillowy, gnudi are ricotta ravioli without the pasta. They pair well with a delicate sauce that allows your handiwork with the dumplings to shine through. This simple sauté of summer squash and cherry tomatoes flavored with white wine and garlic fits the bill.
I’ve flavored the gnudi heavily with fresh basil. Combined with the sweet dairy flavor of the ricotta and the tomatoes, they are reminiscent of a Caprese salad and make a beautiful light entrée.
The trick to this recipe is getting the right amount of flour into the dough; you want enough to hold the dumplings together but not so much that they get heavy, and that can vary depending on the ricotta and eggs. You may want to cook a test dumpling before shaping the rest of them. If it falls apart, stir in another tablespoon or so of flour.
1 Hour (Gnudi recipe can be made and formed ahead of time)
For the Sauce
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 2 garlic cloves, minced
• 1/2 cup minced white onion
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
• 1 1/2 cups sliced summer squash (1/4-inch-thick rounds)
• 1 1/2 cups halved yellow cherry tomatoes
• 1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
For the Gnudi and Garnish
• 1 pound ricotta, drained if necessary (see Draining Ricotta later in this excerpt)
• 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
• 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus additional for dredging
• 3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped (reserve a few small leaves for garnish)
• Kosher salt
• 1 large egg plus 2 large egg yolks
• 8 zucchini or summer squash blossoms, separated into single petals (optional)
• 1/2 cup white wine or dry vermouth
• 2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
• Flaky sea salt (such as Maldon)
• Freshly ground black pepper
1. For the sauce: Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, and salt, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the summer squash, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the cherry tomatoes, and cook for 1 minute. Add the wine, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt, if needed. Turn off the heat, cover the skillet, and reserve the sauce on the back of the stove.
2. For the gnudi and garnish: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
3. In a medium-size bowl, using a wooden spoon, beat together the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, 6 tablespoons flour, and chopped basil leaves. Season with salt to taste. Beat in the egg and egg yolks.
4. To form the gnudi, fill a shallow bowl with flour for dredging and have ready a baking sheet sprinkled heavily with flour. Flour your hands as well. Grab about 1 heaping tablespoon of dough, quickly roll it into a ball (it will be quite sticky), roll it around in the flour, and transfer it to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Sprinkle the tops of the gnudi with more flour. At this point, you can either complete the dish, or wrap with the baking sheet plastic and refrigerate the gnudi for up to 4 hours.
5. To cook the gnudi, gently add half of the batch to the boiling water and simmer until they rise to the top and stay there for about 1 minute, about 5 minutes total time. (You may have to give them a very gentle nudge off the bottom.) Transfer with a slotted spoon to a plate while you cook the second batch. After the first batch has cooled a bit, test one to make sure it is done to your liking.
6. To serve: Warm four pasta bowls in a low (200 degrees) oven. Warm the sauce over low heat. Add the gnudi and the zucchini blossoms, if using, to the sauce and raise the heat slightly. Cook for 1 minute. Divide the gnudi and vegetables and some of the sauce among the bowls. Add the wine to the pan, raise the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring and scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Whisk in the butter, cook until slightly thickened, 1 minute or so, and spoon the sauce over the four bowls. Garnish with the small basil leaves, a few grains of salt, and a grind of black pepper, and serve immediately. Serves 4
Draining Ricotta: If your ricotta seems watery, line a colander with cheesecloth and set it on a plate. Dump the ricotta into the colander and let it drain in the refrigerator for a few hours. Calabro is by far the best widely available brand of ricotta in the U.S. and is well worth seeking out; it won’t need draining.
Reprinted with permission from Herbivoracious: A Flavor Revolution, with 150 Vibrant and Original Vegetarian Recipes. Recipe © 2013 by Michael Natkin and used with permission of The Harvard Common Press. Buy this book from our store: Herbivoracious.
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