A shot of skepticism was first ingredient in these vegan gnudi

Green Tofu Gnudi. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Tom McCorkle

As part of my job, I sometimes get to test recipes by other people. This is a really great part of the job, to be honest, because it completely solves the problem of what to make for dinner on those nights.

It’s also a little like insider trading in that I get to taste those recipes before you do. But it’s completely virtuous! I’m trying them to make sure they’re good enough for you! I’ve read, written, edited and cooked enough recipes that I can usually look at one and tell you if it will work, if it is in any way unique or exciting, and most importantly, if it will taste good.

So when I was asked about two years ago to test recipes for a story freelance writer Kristen Hartke was doing about vegan pizza, I was all in. Kristen is great to work with, she is super smart and has great taste. I’m predisposed to trust her recipes. They’re simple and straightforward, and always taste great.

When I saw that one of the elements for the pizza was a vegan ricotta, it got my attention. I wasn’t totally sure how we’d pull that off. Then I looked at the ingredient list and saw that it was very short. The main two ingredients were tofu and . . . artichokes?

I was skeptical. Highly skeptical. Even though it was from Kristen.

But it was a low-lift recipe. Just a couple ingredients, spin them in the food processor for a minute and start making the pizza it will go on top of. So I shrugged and dropped everything in the food processor, because that’s the job some days.

Before I went on with the rest of the pizza, I had to give the faux ricotta a taste on its own. Was it close? Could it be?

It wasn’t just close – it was a dead ringer. It was perfect. My jaw hit the floor, and not just because I was making way for the next spoonful. I couldn’t figure out why that bit of culinary alchemy worked. The artichoke thing still has me scratching my head.

I made the pizzas, and they were great, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the ricotta clone and dreaming up other applications for it. My first thought was calzone, but that isn’t that big a jump from pizza. Then I thought ravioli or lasagna.

But then I thought about gnudi.

Gnudi – the G is silent, so give yourself a moment to take in the full-effect of the poetry of Italian imagery when it comes to naming food – look like a cousin of gnocchi, the little potato-based dumplings. But the backstory is that they are ravioli without any pasta to cover them up. (See? The “nude” thing made sense!) They’re essentially clouds of ricotta served with a sauce.

I’ve made gnudi before, and they’re delicious. Ricotta forms the bulk of the dumpling, and there is often spinach blended in. But they can be fragile and a little difficult. They involve mixing the ricotta with a couple of other ingredients and a lot of optimism before dropping clumps of what looks like loose cheese batter into boiling water and hoping they don’t all just fall apart. (Spoiler alert: Some always do.) And then there’s a mess to clean up.

The structure of Kristen’s ricotta doppelganger made me think that it would make a good base for gnudi. There was no actual cheese to melt. There wasn’t a lot of liquid that needed to be soaked up for them to hold together. So I took Kristen’s recipe and added spinach and a very short list of other ingredients. And a pinch optimism, I’ll admit. Then I dropped dollops of the mixture in the water.

They held together. All of them. There was no drama.

Gnudi are often served with marinara. I opted for a simple lemon butter sauce, mostly because I didn’t want to hide the beautiful green color of the dumplings, but also because I thought lemon and butter would complement the spinach and artichoke. (I almost called it a dressing, but then I remembered: nude!) Afraid I might miss the tomato flavor, I added a simple toss of cherry tomatoes, shallot and basil on top. The dish came across as a very sophisticated pasta-less pasta salad.

And it left me looking forward to the next time someone files a recipe that I can’t imagine will work. I’m always happy to have my skepticism disproved.

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Green Tofu Gnudi With Lemon Butter

Storage: Refrigerate cooked gnudi for up to 4 days. Refrigerate the tomato salad for up to 2 days.

Substitutions: If you’re not vegan, you can substitute 1/4 cup grated parmesan for the nutritional yeast, and unsalted butter for the vegan butter. You can also substitute a gluten-free flour for the all-purpose.

Servings: 5-6


For the salad:

2 tablespoons raw pine nuts

10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 shallot, thinly sliced

5 large fresh basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, for garnish (optional)

For the gnudi:

1 tablespoon olive oil

3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

8 ounces fresh spinach (regular or baby), roughly chopped

1 (14-ounce) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained

1 cup (8 ounces) artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour

For the sauce:

4 tablespoons vegan butter, divided

1/2 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced or finely grated

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour

1/2 cup dry white wine or vegetable broth

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

Fine salt (optional)


Make the gnudi and toast the pine nuts: Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium or large skillet over medium heat, toast the pine nuts, constantly agitating the pan, for about 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Transfer to a plate. Return the skillet to the stovetop and increase the head to medium-high.

Add the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook the spinach in batches.)

In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, artichokes with their oil, nutritional yeast, zest, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, add the wilted spinach and process until the mixture is a uniform green, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and process until incorporated, about 30 seconds more. Taste, and season with more salt, if desired.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two large spoons, shape dumplings slightly larger than cherry tomatoes (roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons’ worth) and begin to carefully slide balls of the batter into the boiling water. Work in batches and avoid crowding the pot. Boil the gnudi until they are bobbing in the water, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider to a platter and repeat with the remaining batter, if needed.

Make the sauce: In the same skillet you toasted the nuts and wilted the spinach, over medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter. Add the minced shallot and cook until it begins to soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Sprinkle the flour over and stir until it absorbs the butter, about 30 seconds. Add the wine or broth, and stir until the liquid incorporates with the flour and begins to thicken, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice to incorporate. Remove from the heat and add the remaining butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to incorporate before adding more. Taste, and season with salt, if needed.

To make the salad and serve: In a small bowl, toss the tomatoes, sliced shallot and basil.

Divide the sauce among plates and add 5 to 6 gnudi on top. Scatter the tomato salad over the top and garnish with the pine nuts and lemon zest, if using.


Per serving

Calories: 250; Carbohydrates: 19 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Fat: 14 g; Fiber: 4 g; Protein: 10 g; Saturated Fat: 7 g; Sodium: 407 mg; Sugar: 3 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

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From staff writer Jim Webster, inspired by a recipe from food writer Kristen Hartke.



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