It is between Siena and Grosseto that this rich Tuscan dish was born. A curious name that derives from the local dialect and that means naked; this is because it is essentially the filling of ravioli, deprived of the external part of the pasta. They are also called malfatti, because of their imprecise shape, both in the area of Siena and, leaving the region, in the Oltrepò Pavese, where they become a traditional festive dish.
This recipe is part of the peasant tradition and is made of few ingredients, easily available. Spinach, ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, flour and eggs are the base of this kind of big gnocchi. The seasoning is traditionally simple, based on butter and sage, but it can become a rich ragout based on local meats sprinkled at the end with Tuscan pecorino cheese.
It seems that even Romans used this recipe, even though in a different form. Gnudi were presented in the form of a cake, the Torta di Apicio, to be exact. Enclosed in this of the pastry sheet they are now deprived of. These large ravioli were born in Gavi Ligure, where these raw materials abounded. They lost their shells around 1500, at home. In order to see them in the restaurant industry in this form, it is necessary to wait for the book by Pellegrino Artusi, who mentions them in his treatise ‘science in the kitchen and the art of eating well’.
Today various contaminations are being created in order to give them a new value. It is not rare to find gnudi seasoned with Sardinian pecorino cheese or with a mushroom ragout. There is also an excellent version with truffles and gratin cheese. If you want to give a crunchy part, you can add some nuts o almond. You can also make them in a gluten-free version using alternative flours like rice flours or lentils flour.
Wash the fresh spinach and sauté in a pan with oil and garlic. Cook for 15 minutes.
Coarsely chop the spinach and mix with ricotta cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, flour, salt and pepper.
Knead and create balls the size of a walnut.
Boil in salted water for 5 minutes and toss in a pan with butter and sage. Sprinkle with grated pecorino cheese.
You can use other seasonings, such as a simple tomato sauce or a meat sauce.
Spinach can be substituted with other vegetables, as well as pumpkin in autumn time.