I first had ravioli nudi at San Francisco’s Zuni. It was one of the most sublime, delicate things I’d ever eaten, and I just chalked it up to the deftness of Zuni and let it go. A few years later, I was astonished to find a recipe for Florentine ravioli in Food & Wine that seemed manageable and I’ve been making it ever since. I’m always a bit slack with ingredients, so I’ve cut a lot of corners with this recipe, but a recent breakthrough causes me to post a modification.
Giuliano Bugialli’s recipe (below) calls for blanched spinach and drained ricotta, neither of which I bother with. Zuni’s version may have contained a little grated lemon, but I just dump ricotta, grated pecorino (I prefer it to parmesan) flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl. (I halve the quantities of Bugialli’s and include the flour in the mix.) This time I added fresh corn (no, I didn’t blanch it). But the big breakthrough was egg whites. The recipe calls for yolks, but I’d already worked through a lot of yolks today, making molten chocolate cake and ice cream, and had about six egg whites which I thought I should use up. Given that I always play it fast and loose with this recipe anyway (with varying results), I thought I’d use the egg whites and the result was MUCH fluffier, lighter, and more like Zuni’s than any I’d made before.
(With the recipe halved I cook them all in one batch. Having a slotted spoon for moving them in and out of the water is very helpful.)
Here’ s a reprint of Zuni’s own recipe and preparation suggestions.
Here’s Emiko Davies’ version, made with carrot. She calls them gnocchi but the ingredients seem to be the same. (What is the difference between nudi and gnocchi? I would think nudi are made with ricotta, while gnocchi emphasize a glutinous tuber… but, maybe not…)
Giuliano Bugialli printed in Food & Wine:
* 15 ounces fresh ricotta cheese (about 2 cups)
* 3 pounds spinach, large stems discarded
* About 3 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese (3/4 pound)
* 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
* Salt and freshly ground pepper
* 5 extra-large egg yolks
* 1 cup all-purpose flour
* 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
* Fresh sage leaves, for garnish
1. Spoon the ricotta into a large coffee filter set in a strainer and drain for 1 hour.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander and cool under cold running water. Drain the spinach thoroughly. Working with one handful at a time, squeeze the spinach until very dry. Finely chop the spinach.
3. In a large bowl, combine the drained ricotta with the spinach, 2 cups of the Parmesan and the nutmeg. Season generously with salt and pepper, add the egg yolks and stir until evenly combined.
4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Spread the flour on a plate. Form level tablespoons of the spinach-ricotta mixture into balls. Roll the balls lightly in the flour until coated. Arrange the balls on a lightly floured baking sheet.
5. Melt the butter in a medium skillet. Pour the butter into a large, warmed baking dish and keep warm near the stove.
6. Gently drop one-third of the balls into the pot and cook just until they rise to the surface. Using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon, transfer the ravioli to the baking dish in a single layer. Return the water to a boil and cook the remaining balls in 2 batches. Sprinkle the ravioli nudi with as much of the remaining Parmesan as desired, garnish with sage leaves and serve immediately.