|A Recipe for Gnudi or "Naked Ravioli"|
Pasta is simply the Italian word for dough. Originally, pasta in Italy began with growing the highest-quality hard wheat, and the name given to this specific type of wheat was "durum" which in Latin means hard. Italian pasta has been enjoyed for centuries, with old and new recipes being prepared and created. Sailors packed pasta as a staple for long voyages due to its incredibly long shelf life. Today Italian restaurants and home cooks world wide make millions of pasta dishes each year.If you want to enjoy cooking and eating pasta at its best, one way is to buy good-quality dried pasta made with durum or semolina . Once you taste quality dried pasta, it will be very hard for you to return to the industrially produced alternatives. It’s not just for flavour, but the firm, rough texture puts it way out in front and actually helps you to achieve that al dente ‘firm to the teeth’ texture that is the mark of well-cooked pasta. Poor quality often ends up sticky and soggy. If you would like you can read this very interesting article about the history of pasta.
The most common misconception is that pasta is a very fattening food. Fortunately, in the last decade or so, the misconception that pasta is fattening has been corrected by many nutrition experts, through their interest and research into the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet. In most parts of Italy, obesity is relatively rare, though a "low-carb diet" is unheard of. Italians do eat a lot of carbs, but they are happy, healthy individuals. And it is also worth mentioning that they consume carbs balanced with proteins and fats. In Italy, pasta is usually eaten as primo piatto (first course), meaning the main course, which is usually a healthy fish dish or a lean meat, has yet to come.
It is the sauce that you put on the pasta that adds the calories to the meal. If you want to eat pasta but keep your calorie count low, you could eat whole-wheat pasta topped with a low calorie sauce. Reasonable portions of pasta dishes made with lean meat, fresh vegetables or fish sauces are not fattening at all. Eating huge portions of pasta with rich sauces every day is not recommended, of course but even those must be enjoyed once in a while! Never has my philosphy of "everything in moderation" rung more true when it comes to pasta!!!! Following that dictum, you could eat pasta every day of the week!!!!!!
Whole-wheat pasta is not only higher in natural nutrients but it also contains more fiber. In addition, whole-wheat pastas tend to have a lower glycemic index. What this means is that it will not raise your insulin level. This is very important if you are a diabetic or attempting to lose weight. Though people have grown accustomed to the mellow taste and texture of refined pasta, whole-wheat pasta is higher in protein, and tends to be more filling, so you do eat less. It becomes lighter as it cooks and can be quite delicious when served with flavorful sauces.
Sauces are meant to coat the pasta and not to drown them. The sophistication found in Italian cuisine lies in the simplicity of the method using a couple of cleverly combined ingredients and herbs that compliment the pasta and not over power them. So be light on the sauce, use whole wheat pasta when possible and eat a balanced diet and all will be well with the world.
I am sending this dish over to Presto Pasta Nights which is the invention of the lovely, talented and fellow Canadian Ruth over at Once Upon a Feast - Every Kitchen Tells It's Stories. I can hardly believe that this is week #145 of PPN!!! What an excellent way to start the new decade.
My dish this week is not really pasta at all (although it can be served on top of pasta as I did here) but it has a pasta name.... "Naked Ravioli" . Therefore I thought it would still work within the parameters of Ruth's event. Malfatti or Gnudi is a traditional Tuscan dish. It’s basically ravioli without dough called “gnudi” which in Tuscany means “naked” or also “malfatti” meaning “not well made". This dish gets its name from the fact that it is really the filling of the ravioli without the pasta. Often, gnudi are served without any pasta at all, as a starter but they can also be served on pasta, either with a light tomato sauce or with butter, sage and Parmesan.
This recipe comes from Canadian chef David Rocco from his cookbook "David Rocco's Dolce Vita". I really enjoy this method because he bakes his gnudi in the oven. This is a godsend since in the past I have not had much success where recipes call for boiling the gnudi. This is one of the easiest recipes you will ever make and these will literally melt in your mouth!!!!
**Malfatti or Gnudi (Naked Ravioli)**
a recipe by David Rocco
1 lb (500 g) fresh ricotta cheese, preferably sheep's milk, drained
1 large bunch raw spinach, chopped
5 tablespoons (75 mL) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for smearing hands
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt to taste
4 tablespoons (60 mL) freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus extra for sprinkling
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 - 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Place your drained ricotta in a mixing bowl. Chop your spinach and saute it with some olive oil and garlic. Let it cool down, then add it to the ricotta. ( I used frozen spinach so squeezed it dry first. I am not sure if this is necessary for the outcome of the dish but I always prefer it). Add 2 pinches of salt, a good handful of Parmigiano, or more spinach. (Make it your own and what is right for you!!!) David says, " if the texture seems a bit liquid to you, add a pinch of flour, but not too much. You just want to bind the mixture. The texture should be fliffy and delicate, not heavy".
Pour a bit of olive oil on your hands and rub them together. (As David says this will prevent the gnudi mixture from sticking to your hands, and the bonus is that your hands get a nice spa tretament at the same time!!!) Now take a bit of the mixture and roll it in your hands to make little balls about the size of golf balls. Use all of the filling.
For the tomato sauce cut up the cherry tomatoes. Heat some olive oil and garlic in a pan, throw in the tomatoes along with some salt and cook for a few minutes until they get soft.
Spread a layer of tomato sauce in a baking dish. Lay the gnudi on top, then spoon some more of the sauce on top. Sprinkle some Parmigiano on top of each gnudi ball. Toss the basil on top. Bake in a 350 - 400F (180 - 200C) oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until golden.
You can also serve this with pasta for a different treat!!!