Put on Some Clothes, You’re Gnudi! (Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Browned Butter Sage Sauce)

Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi are like the fillings of cheese ravioli, but they are made like a meatball. Without its pasta “clothing,” it’s nude!

Gnudi is really pronounced “nyudi” in Italian. I didn’t know that until I started learning the Italian language. However, I should have known because I knew how to say “gnocchi” properly, which are gnudi’s cousins.  Gnudi are ricotta cheese-based dumplings and gnocchi are dumplings typically made with cooked potatoes and flour. Even the shapes are different. Got it? 🙂

Even though gnudi are not enclosed by pasta, they are not completely gluten free. I use some flour to help bind them and keep their “ball” shape. My version is with spinach, but you could easily leave it out.

How to dress your gnudi: The most classic sauce for gnudi is browned butter and sage, like in the recipe, below. However, you can enjoy them in many other ways. For example, with my:

  • Pantry tomato sauce (either use fresh-made gnudi with tomato sauce, or with leftover gnudi balls baked at 350F/180C for 30 minutes with plenty of tomato sauce);
  • Winter Root Vegetable Soup; or
  • Over a bed of sautéed, garlicy bitter greens (swiss chard, chicory, broccoli rabe, etc.)
Alternative with tomato sauce (using fresh or leftover gnudi)


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Spinach and Ricotta Gnudi with Browned Butter Sage Sauce

  • Servings: About 24, 1-inch (2 cm) balls, or about 4 servings of 6 gnudi each
  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print


  • 15 ounces (500 grams) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen spinach, thawed, liquid squeezed out, and minced
  • 2 ounces (3/4 cup) finely grated Parmesan, Grana Padano or Pecorino cheese
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups flour, divided (you may use all-purpose flour, fine semolina flour, which is more traditional, or a combination)
  • 1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (not iodized table salt), divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Sage Butter Sauce (optional, but classic)

  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned
  • 10 – 12 fresh sage leaves


  1. The night before… Place the ricotta in a fine mesh sieve over a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it drain overnight in your refrigerator. You want to get out as much whey as possible
  2. The night before… Thaw the frozen spinach in your refrigerator
  3. The next morning, as early as possible… Squeeze out as much liquid from the spinach as possible and then finely mince it
  4. Place the ricotta, spinach, grated cheese, egg yolks, 1/2 cup flour (or semolina flour, or combo) salt, pepper and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl. Mix until everything is well integrated. Alternatively, once you squeeze out the water from the spinach, you can place the spinach in a food processor and pulse it until it is finely minced. Then pulse together all the other ingredients already mentioned
  5. Evenly spread 1/2 cup of flour (or semolina flour) on a tray that will fit into your refrigerator, and place the remaining 1/2 cup flour in a bowl
  6. With a spoon, form approximately 1-inch balls of the ricotta-spinach mixture and gently roll them in the bowl of flour (or semolina), then place each ball on the floured tray. Advice: Don’t make the balls larger than 1-inch or they won’t cook-through properly
  7. If you have any leftover flour from the bowl, evenly sprinkle it on top of the gnudi balls on the tray. Place the tray in the refrigerator uncovered for at least 8 hours, and up to 24 hours. You want a “skin” to form on the balls to help them stay in the ball shape when they boil
  8. Bring 4 quarts of water to a soft boil with 1 tablespoon of kosher or sea salt
  9. While the water is heating, place the butter and sage leaves in a small pot. Over medium heat bring the butter to a soft boil, and continue heating until the milk solids in the butter turn brown and sink to the bottom of the pan. It’s going to make all sorts of popping sounds and smell delicious. Advice: Put a splatter screen over the pot if you have one. The butter should be a golden brown. Watch it carefully as it can turn from golden to burnt quickly. Turn off the heat and set the butter and sage leaves aside
  10. Gently brush off excess flour from the gnudi balls and carefully place them in the soft boiling water. Gently give them one or two stirs to ensure they do not stick together. When the balls rise and stay at the top of the water, which could take several minutes, they are nearly done. Once they float on top of the water, cook them for 1 more minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove them and place them in bowls
  11. Evenly distribute the browned butter and sage leaves over the bowls of gnudi and serve immediately

Author: gregnelsoncooks

Visit weekly for original and adapted recipes as well as cooking tips to make your kitchen life easier — and more delicious! I’ll include simple, straight forward instructions along with recipes that are truly worth your time making. And, recipes that elevate the familiar and introduce you to the new and unexpected.

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