Almost all Tuscan recipes have ancient roots, most of them dating back to the Etruscan civilization. The “gnudi” are also among these. In Siena they are called “malfatti”, because they resemble something “badly made”. While in Arezzo, they are known as “gnudi”, that is “without a shirt”, because of the absence of the pasta sheet that would encase them into a ravioli. In both cases, they are large naked gnocchi-like dumplings made with ricotta cheese and green leafy vegetables, even wild ones, provided they are edible, obviously. The “gnudi” are commonly made with spinach, but you can make them with wild radicchio, or with borage (starflower), or with Sulla coronaria leaves, and you can also make them with chard, in short, you can really let your imagination go wild.
To evoke the Etruscan version, you should use chard as your green leafy vegetable. The ricotta cheese absolutely needs to be from sheep or goats, the pecorino cheese should be mature and made from unpasteurized milk and the olive oil has to be extra-virgin.
Etruscan Gnocchi by Olea Prilis
Rinse the chard well, at least three times, in plenty of cold water to remove all the dirt.
Put some water in a large pot, just enough to cover the bottom, and bring it to the boil. Then add a little salt and put in the chard, cover, and leave to boil for a few minutes until the leaves and stalks have softened.
In the meantime, prepare the pecorino cream by putting 100 grams of grated pecorino in a thick-bottomed saucepan, add three tablespoons of Olea Prilis extra virgin olive oil, a little vegetable broth or some boiling water from the chards, add the finely chopped savory herb and stir until a cream is formed, then turn off the heat.
Strain the chard really well and let it cool down. Once cool, squeeze out as much moisture as possible. Transfer the chard to a chopping board and chop with a large knife and again press out excess water.
Now place the chard in a large bowl and mix it with the ricotta cheese – with the whey already drained off – two eggs, 100 grams of grated pecorino cheese and two or three tablespoons of flour.
The dough mixture should be soft and sticky, yet firm and not too moist nor too dry. Add a pinch of salt, without exaggerating, as the pecorino is already quite salty. Finally, sprinkle with pepper.
Once you’ve got the right consistency, with well floured hands, make some large balls approx. 4cm in diameter (about a tablespoon and a half of mixture). Place the balls on a well floured pastry board. In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
When all the gnudi are ready, with the help of a skimmer, gently put them in the water in 2 or 3 batches so that they don’t get “overcrowded”. At the same time, add another spoonful of broth to the pecorino cream and simmer it over low heat.
As soon as the gnudi float to the surface, gently remove them with a skimmer. Drain them well and place them on a serving plate, pour the pecorino cream over them. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you have them available, add some edible flowers.
Olea Prilis extra virgin olive oil, with its pleasant notes of chicory, goes really well with this recipe which has a predominance of sweet flavors.