And since we were just speaking about balls and word origins, it seems only fitting that the next recipe be for my Vegan Spinach Tofu Gnudi Balls. Yes, I said Gnudi Balls. Laugh all you want and keep your mind in the gutter if that’s where it’s most comfortable but Gnudi Balls are melt-in-your-mouth delicious.
What exactly are Gnudi Balls, you ask? Well, in Italian, gnudi means ‘naked,’ just like it sounds. Gnudi Balls are “naked ravioli,” they are the filling of the ravioli without the pasta. They are a traditional Tuscan dish, sometimes called malfatti which means “badly made” because of their less than perfect shape.
Sometimes they are called ricotta gnocchi because the main ingredient is ricotta cheese but while they are dumplings, they are not gnocchi at all. There is no pasta dough involved.
Gnudi Balls are usually made with whole-milk ricotta cheese, Parmesan, eggs, nutmeg, salt, pepper and flour. They are boiled like ravioli but they can also be baked. And because they contain no pasta, they can be served with pasta and with any kind of sauce you prefer: Marinara, garlic and oil or a brown Vegan butter sauce.
Of course, my Gnudi Balls are Vegan and gluten-free. I made them with tofu, spinach, chickpea flour, Vegan grated parmesan and spices. With no full-fat dairy or egg products, my Gnudi Balls are the healthier balls. I also added spinach for more taste, texture and vitamins; not to mention, how pretty the Gnudi Balls look with their speckled green color.
Gnudi Balls are also very fragile so the balls need to be handled delicately. They can either be boiled like pasta in a large pot of salted water or they can be baked in the oven which would mean less risk of them coming apart.
Ok, honestly, I don’t have to keep calling them Gnudi Balls. They can just be called Gnudi but my mind keeps going back to the infamous Saturday Night Live skit with Alec Baldwin and his “Schweddy Balls.” Let’s watch that, shall we? 🙂
Now that I’ve got that out of my system, let me get back to the recipe. I served my Spinach Tofu Gnudi with brown rice pasta and my delicious, simple Marinara sauce. Since I was making a Marinara sauce anyway, I just cooked the Gnudi directly in the sauce. But if you want them to retain their original color for presentation and not get completely covered in red sauce, use the boiling water method (or the baking method). Then ladle your sauce of choice over the Gnudi.
Spinach Tofu Gnudi Balls
One 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
One package of extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
½ cup Vegan grated parmesan or nutritional yeast
4-6 Tbs. chickpea flour, plus 2 Tbs. more for rolling
4 Tbs. chickpea flour mixed with 4 Tbs. water (or the egg replacer of your choice)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
Pinch of nutmeg
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Put the spinach in a large bowl and separate it with your fingers. Crumble the tofu into the bowl. Add the Vegan parmesan (or nutritional yeast), the 4 Tbs. of flour, and the seasonings. Mix 4 Tbs. of flour with water to form a paste. This is your binder. (Or you can use whatever egg replacer you prefer). Add it to the bowl. Mix with a fork or your hands to form a dough. If it feels too loose, add more flour.
Pour the 2 Tbs. of flour on a plate. Using a tablespoon, scoop out servings of the mixture and form them into compact, firm balls with floured hands. Gently roll the balls in the flour on the plate.
Depending on the size you make, you should have between 16 and 20 balls. You can also make these in advance and refrigerate them until you are ready to use them. Bring them back to room temperature before boiling.
Gently drop the balls into the boiling water. Do not overcrowd them; do them in batches, if necessary. They should cook for about 5 minutes. Remove them with a slotted spoon. Top the Gnudi Balls with your choice of sauce and serve alone or with pasta.
As an alternative method, you could spoon some sauce into a baking dish, add the Gnudi Balls and top with more sauce. Top with Vegan grated parmesan or Vegan mozzarella and bake for about 10 minutes until they are golden brown and the cheese has melted. Then serve with extra sauce, if desired. This would make an extra decadent dish of cheezy, saucy Gnudi Balls.
As I mentioned above, I cooked the Gnudi Balls in my Marinara sauce for about 5 -8 minutes. Then I served them atop brown rice pasta, covered with more sauce and Vegan grated parmesan.
My Spinach Tofu Gnudi Balls were a delicious, different spin on a trendy Italian dish. Try them and see. To paraphrase Alec Baldwin, “No one can resist my Gnudi Balls.”