Growing up with a father who is an engineer, I was pretty used to him de-constructing perfectly fine or sometimes, challenged gadgets and then constructing them back together with a precision, that they worked like a dream. I remember this one incident where my mom had just got a new sewing machine that she was really protective and excited about. One day, my mom and me, came back from school (just to clear any misunderstanding, I studied there and she taught!), and in the bedroom, laid on a pure white bedsheet, was every little minute part of the sewing machine neatly arranged. My mom would have divorced my father over this incident had he not managed to put each and every part back together and have the machine work like a dream!
Now I didn’t quite inherit his ability in the same manner, as I have nowhere near his engineering skills, but I do have a knack for de-constructing food and (at the risk of sounding pompous), am pretty good at it!
Okay, now this post has 2 parallel stories running, maybe a little bit like Pulp Fiction (minus the killings and the gore), but I promise I will tie it up deliciously in the end. So, a few years back I moved to Pondicherry to run my own café (why I came back is another story for another day). While there, I met a lot of interesting people. One sunny day, I had a couple, complete with backpacks and everything, visit the café. An interesting couple who started their trip at the North of India and were backpacking their way to the Southern tip. While we got talking, I figured they were Italians. Obviously, there was a huge bit of conversation about the food in Italy (I love Italian food), which led to a very interesting revelation. In Tuscany, there’s this dish called ‘Gnudi’, derived from the word ‘nudi’ which basically means nude! But it got awfully interesting when I was made to understand that ‘Gnudi’ is actually ravioli, without the pasta! Isn’t that AWESOME? I HAD to make some and try it. I decided to make some for my Dad, who isn’t much of a pasta fan (he just thinks it’s just bland “maida” and is quite put off by it. Sad, I know.). And trust me, he polished his plate off and how. YAY, obviously I was thrilled and he couldn’t just have enough. And from then on, whenever he wants to eat pasta, I know what he means.
So here goes, presenting to you ‘Gnudi’ my way! See, told you, I’d tie both stories in the end, and deliciously so!
Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Herbed White Sauce
For the Gnudi
Spinach – 4 bundles
Ricotta Cheese – 200gms
Parmesan Cheese – 100gms (grated)
Eggs – 2nos
Garlic – 2tbsp (minced)
Ginger – 1tbsp (minced)
Whole wheat flour – 1 cup
Salt to taste
Butter – 3tbsp
Water – 1 ½ltr
For the White Sauce
Milk – 500ml
Butter – 1tbsp
Cream – 100ml
Basil – few leaves
Rosemary – ½ tsp
Chilli flakes – 1 tsp
Salt and pepper to taste
Brown rice paste – 3tbsp
Now this is a really simple recipe which both, your kids, and you will enjoy making together and eating.
- Blanch the spinach, so basically, take a pot of water, heat it just to a boil, simmer, add the spinach, leave it for a minute of two and immediately take it out.
- In a pan, add the butter and the minced ginger and garlic. Let it cook for a minute or so. Now add the blanched spinach and cook it until the moisture has evaporated.
- Once cool, chop the spinach really well and add it into a mixing bowl.
- Now begins the fun part. For this and the following parts get your children to help with all the mixing.
- Add the ricotta to the spinach and mix well.
- Once mixed, add the eggs and parmesan and mix again.
- Now add the flour and mix, mix, mix. Taste and add salt and give it another good mix. Your Gnudi mixture is done.
- On a platform, sprinkle some flour and make small ball shaped Gnudis making sure they don’t stick.
- This is super fun for the kids and will keep them engaged for quite some time.
- Once shaped, take a pot with boiling water, add some salt to it and gently drop the Gnudis into the water.
- They take about a minute or so to cook, and you’ll know because the minute they are cooked they rise to the top. Pull them out with a strainer and set aside.
Now for the White Sauce
A typical white sauce states that you take butter in a pan, then add the flour and the rest and so on and so forth. Well, this one is a far healthier and hardly a process driven sauce, all thanks to the brown rice paste.
Brown Rice Paste
This is very, very easy to make. Take 3 tbsp of brown rice, and boil it in 3 cups of water until it is very overcooked and starchy. Let it cool and blend it to a smooth paste. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use it to thicken soups, sauces or curries. It’s wonderful. It doesn’t have any flavour, so it doesn’t interfere with whatever you add it in. It thickens to perfection, without the artificialness of cornflour.
As promised, very easy.
- Whisk together the milk, cream, and butter, and add it to a thick bottomed pan.
- On a medium heat, bring it to a slight boil, stirring as you go.
- Add the brown rice paste, stir in the brown rice paste, making sure no lumps are formed.
- Bring it to a boil on medium heat, turn the heat low and add the seasoning and herbs.
- Cook for about 3 minutes or until thickened to your desire and take it off the gas.
- In case you happen to find the sauce with little creamy parts standing out, just give it a blitz in the blender and it’s smooth and good to go.
- For serving in a pasta bowl, arrange the Gnudi, pour over the sauce, add some grated cheese of your choice, give an extra sprinkling of herbs and serve!
- This dish is a delight to cook with your kids. And truth be told, for most part, the Gnudis can actually be made by your kids, so that’s very good for you.
- You could also try to make them with maida. But I prefer whole wheat.
- It is much lighter and easier than making pasta or a ravioli.
- In the sauce, you can replace the rosemary with oregano or parsley depending on what flavours you like.
- The richness in the dish, comes from the white sauce.
- As mentioned, the brown rice paste, is one trick you will treasure forever.
Well, there goes, a story in a story with a recipe in a recipe tied up for your palette only! Do feel free to get your friends to read the post and have some fun with their kids too. Share it on Facebook and twitter and earn some brownie points! You could also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org on suggestions with what you’d like me to make next. Do leave a comment, as they always bring a smile to my face. Until next time then…