Nude in the Candlelight

Last weekend, my kitchen was full of nudes in the candlelight.

Whoa! What?! Lack of electricity can make one a little loopy, but I think I would have noticed a bunch of naked people in my apartment. Instead, I am referring to gnudi, a delightful Italian pasta/dumpling I discovered for the first time right around the moment our power went out. Gnudi does mean nude in Italian, referring to the fact that these are similar to naked ravioli filling. Simple to create (even in the dark), flavorful and fluffy, these pillows of cheesy dough may have surpassed gnocchi on my palate. I stumbled across a recipe for gnudi when I was searching for something different to do with some very fresh ricotta I picked up from Keepsake Farm.

By 6:30pm on Saturday, many of my friends had already lost power and had it returned, so I thought that we were safe from the risk of power outage. My husband had been out since 7am working in the cold, shoveling and chainsawing downed limbs at the historic sites in town. He’s a huge fan of Italian food and I was sure he’d be hungry for something warm when he got home, so I decided to try out this rustic dish.

I pulled the ingredients from the fridge, took a picture, and began mixing up the pasta dough, listening to some Primus on my iPod. Then, over the notes of Les Claypool, I heard a loud crack/thud, followed by several flashes of my lights. Then, darkness. Crap. Eggs, meat and cheese out of the fridge, dough half made and no power. Looking out the window, it was obvious most of the city was in the dark, and I could see strange green and purple flashes across town as transformers blew, so I figured it wasn’t coming back any time soon.

Fortunately, though, we have a gas cooktop, and I was equipped with my headlamp (I am really starting to recognize the value of that gadget!), so I lit a yummy-scented candle, got out the box of matches for the stove, and carried on making gnudi for dinner. I served my gnudi with meatballs and fresh tomato sauce to make for a heartier meal for my hard-working man, but the dumplings would also be great with a light olive oil sauce.

Gnudi & Meatballs

Note: These pictures are awful. Sorry. Ingredients spotlit by head lamp don’t look all that appetizing!

Meatballs and Sauce Ingredients:

Meatballs & Sauce Ingredients

Meatballs & Sauce Ingredients

  • 1 lb. ground beef (Valley View Farms)
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1/2 c. white wine (this was leftover from a work event, red would work, too)
  • 1 onion (Jett’s Natural Produce)
  • 2 cloves garlic (Apple Ridge Farm)
  • 1 egg (Valley View Farms)
  • 2 c. cherry tomatoes (my garden)
  • handful fresh oregano (my garden)

Gnudi Ingredients:

Gnudi Ingredients

Gnudi Ingredients

  • 16 oz. ricotta cheese (Keepsake Farm)
  • 1/2 c. flour, plus some for dusting
  • 1 bunch greens (I used turnip greens from Apple Ridge Farm, but beet greens, spinach or chard would also work.)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 c. aged cheese (I used Keepsake Ferale from Keepsake Farm, but you could also use gouda or parmesan)


  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil.
  2. Combine ground beef with egg and form into 1 inch balls.
  3. Chop onion and garlic and sautée in olive oil in large skillet for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add meatballs and cook until outsides are browned, tossing occasionally.
  5. Meanwhile, halve tomatoes.
  6. When meatballs are browned, add wine and stir, scraping off any browned bits from surface of pan.
  7. Add tomatoes and bring to simmering. Reduce heat to low and cover for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    Meatballs & Sauce

    Meatballs & Sauce

  8. While sauce simmers, chop greans and cook, stirring frequently, in another skillet until just wilted.
  9. Fluff ricotta with fork in large bowl.
  10. Add flour, 2 eggs, and greens. Mix well.
  11. Grate or finely crumble the cheese into the ricotta mixture. Mix well.
  12. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls, setting them on a floured surface. Turn the balls on the surface to coat the outsides lightly in flour. Slightly flatten each one.

    Uncooked Gnudi

    The light coating of flour provides a bit of body for the outside of the dumplings.

  13. Drop the dumplings into boiling water. Cook for two minutes longer than it takes for them to rise to the surface of the pan.
  14. Gently remove and strain gnudi, then toss with a bit of olive oil and serve hot with tomato sauce.

Sure to bring warmth to any cold, dark night!

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