Spring is always the time I find myself most excited for days in the kitchen, windows thrown open to the spring breezes and that divine fresh air carrying the scent of dark awakening earth. I delight in the sight of the first few spring delicacies arriving at the market and the kitchen counters quickly become heaped with good green things. After the long dark New England winter, I am powerless to resist the temptation of fresh peas, onions, ruby stalks of rhubarb, favas, nettles, the first grassy milk, vernal cheeses and eggs. I particularly love simple recipes that lend themselves to the abundance of the season and celebrate these delicate spring ingredients.
This recipe for creamy homemade gnudi celebrates some of my favorites – beautiful fresh goats cheese from Vermont Creamery, and their heavenly creme fraiche, the first eggs of the season from our hens and a buttery sauce with fresh bright peas and tender spring onions
Tuscan by birth (Gnudi is a form of the Italian word for naked), I first encountered these pillowy little dumplings Thames-side at the River Cafe on a blustery spring afternoon while living in London. Now, I can’t stop myself from ordering them whenever I see them on a menu – sadly, it isn’t often enough! Traditionally made with ricotta, I was inspired to make them with with a bit of a twist using my favorite fresh goats cheese and the beautiful creme fraiche from Vermont Creamery. The result was an even lighter and more ethereal gnudi than I could have imagined.
The elegance of these gnudi, make them a perfect beginning to a spring meal. Luscious with a creamy mouthfeel and a texture akin to the most perfect coddled egg – these gnudi do require a bit of preparation and should be made at least a day in advance but ideally three days ahead. This little bit of preparation makes them an obvious choice for spring entertaining as they come together quickly on the day and allow you more time with guests. In this season of abundant natural beauty, I take every opportunity to find inspiration in the smallest details. When it comes to my table designs, I let the same things inspire me as I do in the kitchen. I look to the tones and textures of the season to create a visual continuity with the meal. I love to use eggs, herbs and other spring produce in my table decor. Not only is it a nod to what’s in store of guests, a simple beautifully laid table is a way to really add to the pleasure of the meal.
Serves 6 as an appetizer. 3 gnudi a piece
- 8oz Vermont Creamery goats cheese
- ¼ cup Vermont Creamery creme fraiche
- ½ cup fresh grated parmesan
- 1 large Egg
- 1 large Egg yolk
- Good pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
- Zest from half a lemon (plus more for serving)
- 2 cups semolina flour
For the sauce:
- 3 Tablespoons Vermont Creamery Unsalted Cultured Butter
- 1 cup fresh shelled green peas
- 2 small spring onion, very thinly sliced
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Microgreens for garnish if desired
The gnudi need to be prepared at least one day in advance but preferably 3 days to let the gnudi rest before cooking. Take care when handling them in each step of the cooking process as they are delicate
On a large baking sheet spread a layer of semolina flour
In a large bowl, gently hand mill the goats cheese and then mix together (i also do this by hand) the goats cheese, creme fraiche, parmesan, nutmeg and lemon zest. If some small chunks of goats cheese remain, its ok. In another small bowl, lightly beat the egg and egg yolk together. Add it to the goats cheese mixture and stir until well combined. Using two spoons, shape mixture into football shaped balls about 2 inches or so long. You should have about 18 gnudi.
After shaping, place each onto the semolina lined baking tray. Once all of the mixture has been shaped, generously dust the gnudi with more semolina. Cover and place in the refrigerator at least one day or up to three
To cook, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce to a vigorous simmer and carefully add the gnudi to the pot. Watch for them to float to the surface (3-4 minutes) and remove immediately. Gently transfer to serving dishes.
While waiting for the gnudi water to boil, melt the butter over medium low heat. When it begins to bubble add the thinly sliced spring onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until soft about 5 minutes. Then add the wine and peas and cook until peas are al dente (5-6 minutes) Add 1 ½ cups of the gnudi cooking water to the sauce and continue cooking a minute more.
Serve 3 gnudi per serving in shallow bowls with a small amount of the sauce ladle over top. Garnish with a sprinkle of lemon zest and micro greens if desired