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Chef Scott Conant pairs his cheesy spinach gnudi ("naked" ravioli—the filling without the pasta) with a rich butter sauce + tomato sauce.
"Let's not beat around the bush: If you do it right, this is the sexiest dish in the book. It does require a bit of prep to nail the texture of each component, but the bright, clear contrasts of the bite of the pasta against the ooziness of the cheese, and the richness of the beurre monté against the assertiveness of the tomato sauce are irresistible. That concentrated tomato sauce (a classic pomodoro base enhanced with estratto, or high-quality extracted tomato paste) is the secret weapon: You don't need much of this tomato paste, and if you've never cooked with it, you'll be amazed at how the estratto thickens the sauce by absorbing liquid, resulting in a thick, hyper-flavorful concentrate that's almost like a roux. The gnudi doesn't really need anything else, though if you want to gild the lily, add the crispy guanciale for crunch and umami." —Scott
Adapted from Peace, Love, and Pasta by Scott Conant. Copyright © 2021 by Scott Conant. Used with permission by Abrams. All rights reserved.
Pro tip from Scott: If you include guanciale in this recipe, ask your butcher to thinly slice it for you.
Scott likes to serve this pasta dish with his Make-Ahead Antipasto Salad with Oregano Vinaigrette.
For the gnudi, combine the ricotta, egg yolks, spinach, Parmigiano, all-purpose flour, panko, and nutmeg. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
Using a cookie scoop, roll the dough into about 40 balls a little smaller than golf balls. Coat a baking sheet liberally with semolina flour, place the gnudi on top of the semolina, then sprinkle more semolina on top.
Refrigerate, uncovered, for 12 hours or overnight before using.
For the beurre monté, in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, bring the heavy cream with the sprig of thyme to a simmer. Whisk the cornstarch and 1½ tablespoons water together to make a slurry and stir it into the heavy cream. Once the cream has thickened, remove the thyme sprig and discard.
Reduce heat to low, then gradually whisk in the diced butter into the cream to create a nice sauce-like consistency.
Season with a pinch of salt and keep warm until ready to use.
For the crispy guanciale (if using), preheat the oven to 350°F. Lay the guanciale slices on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat. Cover with another silicone mat and weigh down the cured pork with additional baking sheets.
Bake in the preheated oven until the guanciale is golden brown and crispy—check the texture every 5 minutes; it should take about 15 minutes total. Remove from the oven, lift off the baking sheets and baking mat, and move the guanciale to paper towels to drain. Serve immediately.
Meanwhile, to finish the dish, bring a pot of heavily salted water to a boil. (The water should be the salinity of broth.)
In a large saute pan set over low heat, add the beurre monté and begin to warm it. When the water boils, add the gnudi to the pot. Once they float to the top of the water, allow them to cook for another 30 seconds, then use a spider or slotted spoon to remove the gnudi and add them to the pan with the beurre monté. Cook until completely warmed through, about 1½ minutes.
Remove from heat and place the contents of the pan in a large serving bowl. Add dollops of the concentrated tomato sauce and the crispy guanciale (if using) on top. Sprinkle with the chives and basil leaves and serve immediately.