06 April 2013

Easter Rising

It only seems fitting that I start this blog back up again at Easter.

My family came down this weekend for Easter. I love my family. I love holidays. However, I do not love trying to figure out what to make for holidays. My sister doesn't like things that rhyme with "am" (ham, lamb, salmon...). My husband doesn't really like turkey much, but he'll tolerate it once a year. When my brother was still around, we usually were able to swing at least one ham holiday and make our sister pick up a chicken breast. Not that I don't get it anymore, but it's really hard to justify a ham more than once a year. Chicken is usually a little boring for a holiday, so that leaves us with pork (which I'm beginning to like now that I can cook it properly) or beef. Oddly enough, we rarely end up with beef and instead at least one of us suffers through a main dish for a holiday.

Pancetta, lamb, and pork simmering...does it get better than this?
One exception to the sister "am" rule is ground lamb (seriously, don't ask me to try to interpret or even understand why). I found this recipe for gnudi with lamb ragu through one of our local food publications and thought it might be a good way to take the traditional Easter lamb and make it palatable for all. It's also not very hard to talk my husband into Italian food. This also meant we could drink our nice bottles of Italian red and get some antipasti for before dinner. Sold!

Cutting the gnudi rope
Prepped and ready to boil
I made the bolognese first since it needs a good hour to simmer. The gnudi were reasonably easy to make. I have never made gnocchi before (it's near the top of my increasingly long list of things I need to try) but the recipe claims they are easier. Perhaps I was a little overly cautious of excessive kneading. I think I could have used a little more elbow grease to keep them together. At the end of the day, they were so light and fluffy, it was probably a good thing I tried my best not to knead them much. They were very delicate, but managed to hold up to the sauce quite well. I did find that I needed more flour than the recipe stated because they were sticking to me and the kitchen counter. That could have partially been the 77 degree day we were not anticipating. I felt a little silly making such a hearty and belly-warming dinner on a record-high day.
Served with plenty of asparagus, to stave off that wine hangover

Wife tested, husband approved
It was an overall wonderful Easter dinner. Everyone was content with the meal and we have leftovers to last another couple of nights! I would say this made more than 8 servings. I have added some comments in italics in the recipe.

Ricotta Gnudi with Lamb Bolognese
Recipe from Rick Gencarelli, Lardo, Portland
Makes 8 servings

Ricotta gnudi
2 large eggs
2 pounds (32 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta*
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
Semolina flour, for dusting

Lamb bolognese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/4 cup fennel, chopped
1/4 cup carrot, chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground pork
1/2 pound pancetta, minced
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 bunch fresh mint, chopped
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

To make the gnudi: In a medium bowl, beat the eggs. Add the ricotta, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt and pepper. Mix until the ingredients are mostly combined. Add the all-purpose flour gradually, while folding the mixture, until a soft dough forms. Add more flour as needed if it feels too sticky to roll into a rope. Dust a rimmed baking sheet with semolina flour. Portion the dough into four separate pieces. On a lightly floured work surface, gently roll one of the pieces into a rope 1/2-inch thick. With a bench scraper or knife, cut the rope into 1-inch pieces. Place the gnudi on the prepared baking sheet so that they are not touching. If not serving right away, freeze the gnudi until firm, then pack into airtight bags or containers. (I would suggest have two baking sheets prepared and enough room in your freezer to hold the baking sheets while your sauce is simmering. It was much easier to drop the gnudi into the boiling water when they were frozen and they didn't stick together.)

To make the lamb bolognese: Heat olive oil in a 6- to 8-quart saucepan set over medium-high heat. Add the onions, fennel and carrot and saute until the vegetables are translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the lamb, pork and pancetta and increase heat to high. Brown the meat, breaking it up with a spoon. Add the tomatoes, white wine and milk. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Skim fat that has risen to the top carefully. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and add chopped mint. To serve: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add gnudi and cook until they float to the surface, plus 1 to 2 minutes more (taste one; it should be cooked through, not gummy). Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the bolognese sauce. (They are delicate, so mix in carefully, but you'll be surprised how well they hold up with such a hearty sauce.) 

Serve garnished with a generous shower of grated cheese.

*The containers I found were only 15 oz each. I still added flour to the dough even when using less ricotta. Just use your best judgment as to how much to add to keep the dough from sticking to the counter and holding the gnudi together.


  1. You are so impressive, Carmel! Someday you WILL cook for me! :)

    1. You name it! Although I will protest against cooking anything vegan...

  2. Looks easy to make and so delicious and it has such a sophisticated name! I love asparagus, so healthy! My mouth's watering right now:). I need you as my cook, come to China!

    1. They are really easy, especially if it's not boiling hot in your kitchen!

  3. Delish! I've never heard of gnudi before, but it looks amazing. Mmm....

    1. I hadn't either. We sure have fun (probably too much fun) saying the name, though. Sounds like "nudey". We're 12.

  4. This has been favorited. Wow looks absolutely incredible. No joke. Is the gnudi like gnocchi?

    1. Very much in texture like gnocchi, but the taste is basically the filling of ravioli with some flour thrown in to hold it together.