I love the versatility of gnudi; they're light and pillowy but sturdy enough to stand up to something like a hearty ragu. Plus the ricotta flavor beautifully complements savory mushrooms and sweet sausage.
Technique tip: If you want to make this dish ahead of time, blanch and shock the gnudi and place on an oiled sheet tray until ready to use.
Swap option: You can sub all-purpose flour for the "00" flour.
- 1 pound "dry" ricotta, preferably sheep's milk, drained if very wet
- 2 large egg yolks
- 1 ounce Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
- 1/4 cup "00" flour
- 3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Semolina, as needed
- 2½ ounces dried porcini mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 pound sweet fennel Italian sausage, casings removed
- 3/4 cup canned plum tomatoes, puréed
- 1 cup brown chicken stock or low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 tablespoons butter, divided
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Parsley, chopped
- Parmesan cheese, grated
For the gnudi:
1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the ricotta cheese and egg yolks at medium speed until incorporated.
2. With the machine on, add the flour, panko, kosher salt and mix until incorporated. The dough should feel moist but should not stick to your hand; if it does, add a little more flour.
3. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. While the dough rests, bring a small saucepan of salted water to a boil.
4. Roll a piece of the dough into 1½-inch ball. Cook it in the boiling water for 3-4 minutes to test for texture. If the gnudi is too soft to hold its shape, add more flour to the dough.
5. Refrigerate the rest of the dough for about an hour; this allows it to hydrate and will make shaping the dough easier.
6. Shape the dough into 1½-inch balls (about 27 total) and transfer to a semolina-dusted sheet pan (this keeps the gnudi from sticking).
7. Refrigerate the shaped gnudi if not using right away (loosely tented with plastic wrap, can last up to 2-3 days in the fridge).
For the ragu:
1. Combine the dried porcini mushrooms with enough hot water to cover and let soak for 5 minutes. Strain the mushrooms; reserve the liquid. Finely chop the porcini mushrooms and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and cook until softened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the reserved porcini and cook for an additional 10 minutes. Add the sausage and cook until browned, 8-10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, reserved porcini liquid and brown chicken stock and let it cook on medium low heat for 15-20 minutes. Season with salt and chili flakes. Reserve.
3. Working in batches, cook the gnudi in salted boiling water until warmed through, about 3-4 minutes.
4. Heat two 12-inch sauté pans on the stove over medium heat. Ladle 1 cup of pasta cooking water into each pan (this can also be done in batches using one pan).
5. Add equal amounts of butter and olive oil to each pan and turn on to medium-low heat. Add the gnudi to the sauté pans and cook, shaking the pans so they do not stick.
6. Once all gnudi are in the pans keep agitating them gently so they do not stick (if the pan gets too dry and looks like it is separating add more pasta cooking liquid).
7. Add the parsley to the gnudi last minute and season with salt.
8. Divide ragu among the plates evenly. Place gnudi on top and finish by grating Parmesan cheese on top.