Sometimes the timing works out just right. Like this week, when I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself with lots of time on my hands just as a shipment of 11 new cookbooks arrived from Amazon. Among the 11 was this little gem, Cucina Povera. An absorbing mix of short essays, photographs and 60 plus recipes subtitled, Tuscan Peasant Cooking, it is fast becoming one of my favourite cookbooks. The recipes are simple, elegant and easy to follow. I may just cook them all.
I am not sure how the people featured in the book like being called peasants, but the recipes I have tried so far could fetch a good price at any high-end Italian restaurant I’ve been to. Like this one, for these creamy, delicate spinach and ricotta dumplings – gnudi, served with a simple and fresh-tasting tomato sauce.
If this is food for the poor, the rich don’t know what they’re missing.
Adapted from Cucina Povera, by Pamela Sheldon Johns
3/4 cup steamed spinach, chopped and cooled to room temperature
3/4 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
2 large egg yolks at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups tomato sauce
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Set oven temperature to 250 F.
Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish and set aside.
Combine spinach, ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano and egg yolks. Mix well. Mix in the flour and combine gently until the mixture just holds together.
Using two tablespoons form oval dumplings with the ricotta mixture and drop them into the boiling water (they don’t have to be perfect – this is rustic food). Don’t crowd the pot. The gnudi will float to the surface when they are cooked (several minutes). Remove gnudi with a slotted spoon and place in the casserole in the oven to stay warm. Repeat until all the dumplings are cooked. Plate the gnudi with more sauce and serve immediately. Serve with crusty bread. Enjoy.