Friday, October 10, 2014

Pumpkin, Swiss chard and ricotta gnudi (a low carb alternative to ravioli or gnocchi)

After an extrememly warm and sunny September, fall has arrived in all its glory. I can tell by the orange and yellow leaves and the chestnuts covering the sidewalks of the city, I can tell by the variety of apples, mushrooms and pumpkins at the store. I can tell by the plentiful rain, my runny nose and my desire to eat something a little more substantial and comforting for dinner.
Enter gnudi.
If you are wondering what gnudi are, think of the love child between a raviolo* and a canederlo (or knoedel in German).
To be honest, they aren't really closely related to canederli, because gnudi don't actually contain any bread or bread crumbs. They are however reminiscent of them in looks and they share their versatility: you can make them choosing from a wide range of ingredients and you can serve them in broth or with a variety of sauces.
But when it comes to the actual preparation, they are much more akin to ravioli, so perhaps the best way to describe them is telling you to picture a naughty raviolo in its birthday suit.
Gnudo is indeed Tuscan dialect for nudo, which means naked in Italian. So gnudi are none other than dumplings or delicate gnocchi (out go the potatoes, in comes the ricotta) made using the same ingredients you would employ for stuffing ravioli, with just a small addition of flour to hold together the fragile ricotta pillows while they are cooking. I used regular flour, but you could probably substitute it with gluten free or no-carb options if you needed/wanted to (rice flour, chickpea flour etc.).
Basically, gnudi are a shortcut and they have the added bonus of being low carb. Sure,  butter and Parmesan cheese make a hefty apperance in the recipe, but the true bulk of gnudi is ricotta (which is not a cheese per se) and vegetables. So what it comes down to is that when you are making gnudi you are actually making a quick and pretty healthy vegetarian meal.


Spinach and ricotta are traditional ingredients for gnudi, but pretty much any leafy green will do and many other vegetables come to mind, from zucchini to eggplant and mushrooms. What is really key is squeezing as much excess water out of the vegetables as you can.
You can also swap cheeses: pecorino would work well and so would feta in my opinion.
And then there is the sauce: melted butter and Parmesan cheese are a classic, but psssst, if it hadn't been a week night meal (we usually try to keep those reasonably healthy and light), I probably would have fried up some pancetta and served the salty, crunchy morsels scattered over the gnudi. Bacon and pumpkin? Yum.
A cream and/or cheese-based sauce would work really well too, if you aren't counting calories. Blue cheese or a raw milk mountain cheese would be perfect to add some character to the ricotta base. And if you are going down the zucchini and eggplant road, a nice tomato sauce would be perfect.

This recipe was inspired by a recipe I found online for pumpkin gnudi.
Ingredients (4 servings - makes about 16)
300gr pumpkin
100gr Swiss chard
400gr ricotta
1 egg
100gr Parmesan cheese + more for serving
flour as needed (about 2 tbsp)
salt/pepper to taste
a pinch of nutmeg
butter, about 50gr
sage (optional but delicious)

Roast the pumpkin in the oven at about 200°C/400°F until soft. When it has cooled off, separate the pulp from the skin, mash it with a fork and and set aside.

Wash, clean and boil the chard in slightly salted water until silky in texture. When it has cooled, squeeze out as much excess water as you can with your hands. Chop with a knife and set aside.

Fill a saute pan with water (you don't want the delicate gnudi whirling around in a large pot of boiling water) bring to a boil, and add salt.

In the meantime, in a large mixing bowl mix the pumpkin, Swiss chard, ricotta, Parmesan cheese and the egg until combined. Add pepper, salt and nutmeg to taste. Then start sprinkling in the flour, being careful to do this a little at a time: you need just enough to hold the dumplings together. If you use too much, like when making gnocchi, they will turn tough and taste terrible. It is hard to give a specific amount because it depends on how wet your mixture is (which in turn depends on what vegetables and ricotta you are using, the size of egg etc.). 

Next, wet your hands or grease them with some oil so the mixture doesn't stick and form dumplings about the size of a small kiwi. When the water is boiling, carefully lower them in and let them cook for about 10 minutes.

While they are cooking melt a good amount of butter and fry up a few sage leaves in it. When the gnudi are ready, lift them from the pan using a slotted spoon and put three or four into each bowl. Douse in melted butter, sprinkle with plenty of Parmesan cheese and lots of freshly ground pepper. 

* I will once again take the opportunity to stress that the singular form of many incorrectly quoted Italian foods actually end with an "o" - panino and biscotto being the most blatant examples.




  1. This sounds delicious. I'm living in Milan at the moment, so could you tell me the Italian name for chard? And saute pan, is that like a small frypan?
    Sorry to ask questions but I have a vegetarian friend staying with us at the moment so I hope these gnudi will be on the menu this week. Grazie mille.

    1. Hi Jenny, good to hear from you! Chard goes under two names here: coste, which is the kind of Swiss chard that has large, white and edible stalks, and erbette or bietole, which are almost all leaves and little stalk. I used erbette/bietole to make these. Regarding the sauteing pan, it is almost identical to a frying pan but has straight sides that are also a little taller. It is practical because it allows you to cook the gnudi in shallow water, whereas cooking them in a lorge pot of boiling water may cause them to break. Let me know how they turn out, hope you like them. Have a great week end,

  2. Thank you so much for this information. I'll post a reply when I have made them. Grazie mille!

  3. I saw the header to this post just as I was going to the farmers market on Sunday and then, thanks to my iPhone, was able to pull it up I I could get all the ingredients! I am making it for dinner tomorrow and will be adding some sage to our butter sauce. Can't wait!

    1. Sage would be perfect and is usually a must for us in butter sauce... plus it is wonderful with pumpkin I find. I didn't have any when I made so it completely slipped my mind, but it is definitely an essential ingredient and am adding it now in my post. Thanks!

    2. These were so good! I think I needed more flour because they were ultra soft. Definitely making them again soon, and will work to get the texture right. David

  4. You're definitely a woman after my own heart with these! They look magnificent and I really like the sound of the pumpkin and bacon together. BTW I am going to be in Rome in a couple of weeks. Do you have any recommendations? I wish I were going to Milan so that I could meet you!

    1. Aaaw, too bad! I can't of anything off hand, but there are a million great places. A person you could ask is Rachel, of Rachel Eats, who lives in Rome.

  5. This is a beautiful recipe. I would love to make gnudi - I've never heard of it before but I'm sure I've seen it. This looks like something that I would see on a menu if I walked into a restaurant in Rome. Gorgeous! I hope to make these one day. I'll pin them! xx

  6. What an interesting variation on gnudi. And you remind me that I haven't made them in a very long time! And I do love them—and this time of year, why not add some pumpkin?

  7. I love gnudi. There's a little restaurant near my parents' house in Italy that does the most beautiful ricotta and spinach ones with fresh tomato sauce that are SO GOOD. I've never tried them with pumpkin but can imagine they're beautifully sweet and light. Perfect autumn fare.

  8. Buoni! Io li ho provati con la farina di ceci... E ricotta of course! Mi piace questa versione zuccosa! :)

    1. Brava, grazie! Così la prossima volta uso anch'io la farina di ceci.

  9. I finally made these and I have to say they were easy and delciious. What a great recipe. Thank you! I'll be adding this to my italian collection.


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