How to cook: Gnudi
There is pasta and meat sauce absolutely everyone loves it but then there really is pasta and meat sauce. Attempt this combination of soft tiny ricotta dumplings with my model of what a true meat sauce should taste like, and you will by no means seem again.
250g (9oz) fine semolina flour
250g (9oz) ricotta cheese
50g (13⁄4 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
FOR THE BEEF STEW
750g (1lb 10oz) shin or skirt of beef or ox cheek, cut into bite-sized chunks
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp olive oil
200g (7oz) thick bacon, cut into big chunks
2 carrots, halved and cut in half lengthways
2 leeks, cut into strips the same size as the carrots
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
small bunch of flat-leaf parsley
small bunch of sage
350ml (12fl oz) red wine
handful of parsley, chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated
About 24 hours ahead of cooking the Gnudi dish, coat a flat tray with a layer of semolina flour. Mix the ricotta with a fork and add the Parmesan cheese. Roll into a long log and then into dessert spoon-size balls. Roll each ball in the semolina flour and place each one on the tray so they do not touch. Pour the rest of the semolina over so that the balls are almost completely covered. Place in the fridge, uncovered, and leave overnight.
When you are ready to cook the dish, preheat the oven to 190ºC (375°F/Gas 5).
To make the ragout, season the meat well and heat the oil in a flameproof casserole dish. Add the bacon, cook it for 2 minutes and then add the meat. Leave it to sit and sizzle until the chunks are well browned underneath, when they will naturally lift and come away from the pan. Turn them over and cook for a further 10 minutes, making sure to move the bacon so it does not burn. You can always take the bacon out and return it to the sauce at the next step.
Add the vegetables and pour in the tomatoes. Add the bay leaves, parsley, and sage and season well with salt and pepper. Then add the wine and bring to the boil, increasing the heat so the alcohol evaporates. Let it bubble for about 10 minutes, scraping the sticky bits of meat from the bottom of the pot.
Add about 500ml (16fl oz) of water so that it almost covers the meat. Cover and place in the oven for 1 hour, then take the lid off, give the meat a good stir, and pop it back in to cook for another hour, so that a lot of the liquid can evaporate. Reduce the oven temperature to 170°C (325°F/Gas 3) for the second hour.
Leave the sauce to cool for about 30 minutes and then, using two forks, pull the meat apart and shred it well. If the sauce is too thin, return it to the boil and reduce, but remember this will be served with pasta or bread so it doesn’t want to be dry. Taste, season and discard the herbs.
To cook the dumplings, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil with a good amount of salt. Dust off the excess semolina flour and drop the dumplings into the water. Let them float to the top and cook for 3 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, drop them into the ragout and gently stir. Add the chopped parsley and stir through as well.
Spoon the ragout and dumplings into bowls and top with the grated Parmesan. Serve the Gnudi with chunks of bread or freshly-cooked pasta.
makes 4 servings